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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Lazy Pastors

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In his book Hacking Leadership: The 11 Gaps Every Business Needs to Close and the Secrets to Closing Them QuicklyMike Myatt says:

The difference between good and great often comes down to discipline.

Many pastors are lazy, overweight, not motivated. They haven’t always been this way, it just happens. Now, swinging the pendulum to the other side and having pastors that compete in the Crossfit games, are workaholics and are legalists when it comes to driving their people and themselves to the point of burnout is not the answer or healthy.

Jared Wilson had a good post on “In praise of fat pastors.” After talking about how self-centered pastors can be and image concious they can be, he tries to save it at the end and say, “But I’m not calling for pastors to be gluttons or slobs.” The problem is, many pastors do not take care of themselves.

Consider these stats:

  • 90% of pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week and 50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.
  • 70% of pastors constantly fight depression and 50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
  • 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families. 80% of spouses feel the pastor is overworked and feel left out and under-appreciated by church members.
  • 1,700 or so pastors leave the ministry each month.
  • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend and 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
  • 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years. 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form.

Back to lazy pastors.

Many pastors struggle to set boundaries around how many hours they work, how many meetings they attend, how much time they spend on their sermon, having adequate family time, adequate time for their own soul, eating well, resting well, and exercising.

How is that being lazy?

As Mike Myatt said: The difference between good and great often comes down to discipline.

Saying no, pulling boundaries takes discipline. Watching what you eat, how you sleep, how you exercise is about discipline. Wasting time on facebook or the computer keeps you from being on task, which keeps you working longer and because you are alone, you are probably now lonelier and the likelihood of you looking at something you shouldn’t online just increased.

I believe how we care for our bodies is a spiritual discipline, it is an act of worship. 

On top of that, finishing well as a leader requires energy and energy requires good sleep, good exercise and good eating habits.

When I meet a man who can’t control what he eats, I wonder what other areas of his life he doesn’t have self-control in, where else does he struggle to say no (food is never the only area). When a person can’t stay on task and complete their job in a decent amount of hours is someone I wonder who has the responsibility to lead things.

While this is not always the case, how we handle our health often reveals other things in our hearts and lives.

Now, just because someone has discipline doesn’t mean that is the ideal leader. They can keep people at arms length, care too much about their looks or what others think. Both the over-disciplined and the undisciplined are in sin.

Here is one thing I’ve learned as I’ve grown more disciplined in my life: when every minute is accounted for and given a name, things get done and less time is wasted. 

Which means I have time to do the things I want to do and to be at the things that matter.

So, how do you evaluate this?

I think a pastor needs to ask if they are known for being a workaholic, lazy or if they are known for having a strong work ethic. If you are to lead your church well and model this for the men of your church, you need to be someone others would aspire to. I think we do the name of Christ harm when we are known as lazy, slobs or workaholics.

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How to Move People in a Sermon

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Mike Myatt in his book Hacking Leadership: The 11 Gaps Every Business Needs to Close and the Secrets to Closing Them Quickly said:

You’ll never understand people until you know what motivates them.

The implications for this on pastors and their sermons are enormous.

I think one of the reasons lives aren’t changed from a sermon is that many pastors do not get at what motivates people. They stand on stage, expound the bible, give a great commentary book report, tell them what the Bible says and then sit down.

Now, before you leave a comment saying, “The holy spirit changes lives, not the preacher.” I wholeheartedly agree. This often gives pastors an out from actually working on their task or doing the hard work during the week before preaching.

Think on this for a minute, “Why should anyone care about what you are preaching on?” Because it is in the Bible? If that’s your answer, you will need to do better than that in our day and age. For our culture, because something is in the bible is a deterrent. I’m not saying that’s right, I’m saying that is how it is. If you can’t tell people on a Sunday morning why they should care about what you are preaching on, they will have little reason to listen.

Think of it another way, “What does this passage answer in my life?” This is just another way or getting at the caring question, but it also poses another thing for pastors: this helps you know that you know your audience because you know the questions they have, the struggles they face, the concerns, addictions, negative emotions, past issues and sins they are walking through at that moment so you can confidently say, “You are struggling with _____, you are having a hard time believing _____ and this passage shows us why Jesus is truer and better.”

Most pastors usually jump to “Jesus is truer and better” without showing those listening, “I know what you think is truer and better.” If people don’t believe we know what they think is truer and better, when we get to Jesus they won’t believe us that He is truer and better because we haven’t shown them that we know what drives them or how to move them.

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Book Notes | Hacking Leadership

bookEvery Saturday I share some notes from a book I just read. To see some past ones, click here. This week’s book is one of the best leadership books I’ve ever read and one I will go back to on a yearly basis. It’s Hacking Leadership: The 11 Gaps Every Business Needs to Close and the Secrets to Closing Them Quickly by Mike Myatt. While it is a business book, the applications for pastors and churches are endless. Pretty much any time he said “business” you could apply it to churches.

I could not agree more that churches have gaps in them and these gaps, if they go untouched, keep the church from fulfilling why God placed the church here.

Here are the gaps and stop me when you feel like it applies to your church or a church you worked at:

  1. Leadership gap – “we don’t have enough leaders or volunteers.”
  2. Purpose gap – “where are we going, why do we exist, why are we doing what we’re doing?”
  3. Future gap – “what is next, how do we reach the next generation, how do we make choices?”
  4. Mediocre gap – “it’s good enough for church.”
  5. Culture gap – “this gets at why things are done without thinking (ie. we’ve always done it this way)”.
  6. Talent gap – “who is being developed, how do you hire people, how do you raise up leaders.”
  7. Knowledge gap – “how do you communicate, do leaders and volunteers know how to make decisions that line up with the vision.”
  8. Innovation gap – “how will your church go to the next level and reach the next generation.”
  9. Expectation gap – “are ministries aligned or are they silos doing their own thing?”
  10. Complexity gap – “how clear is your strategy, how busy is your church, how many layers and committees does it take to get an answer to a question.”
  11. Failure gap – “how does your church or leaders handle failure when it happens?” And it will happen.

As I said, incredibly relevant.

I love his writing style as well. He had one liners all over the book. Here are a few:

  • Holding a position of leadership is not the same thing as being a good leader.
  • The plausibility of impossibility only becomes a probability in the absence of leadership.
  • Businesses don’t fail, projects don’t fail, and products don’t fail—leaders fail.
  • Real leaders don’t limit themselves, but more importantly they refuse to limit those they lead.
  • The seminal question you must ask yourself as a leader is why should anyone be led by you?
  • Leaders who don’t have the trust and respect of their team won’t be able to generate the influence necessary to perform at the expected levels.
  • Leaders simply operate at their best when they understand their ability to influence is much more fruitful than their ability to control.
  • Leaders who are not growing simply cannot lead growing organizations.
  • Not all engagement is necessary or productive.
  • Leaders who are bored, in a rut, or otherwise find themselves anesthetized by the routine have a huge problem—they are not leading
  • People can be rallied around many things, but none more powerful than purpose.
  • I have always believed the gold standard of leadership, the measurement of leadership greatness if you will, is based on a leader’s ability to align talent and outcomes with purpose.
  • Purpose is the foundational cornerstone for great leadership.
  • You cannot attain what you do not pursue.
  • All great leaders are forward thinking and leaning.
  • Leaders deserve the teams they build.
  • Leadership that isn’t transferrable, repeatable, scalable, and sustainable isn’t really leadership at all.
  • Leadership can be boiled down into either owning the responsibility for getting things done or failing to do so.
  • Leadership and loyalty go hand in hand.
  • The number-one reason companies make bad hires is they compromise, they settle, they don’t hire the best person for the job.
  • What most fail to realize is years of solid decision making is oftentimes unwound by a single bad decision.
  • You don’t train leaders; you develop them.
  • Almost universally, the smartest person in the room is not the one doing all the talking—it’s the person asking a few relevant and engaging questions and then doing almost all of the listening.
  • If you’re not willing to embrace change you’re not ready to lead.
  • Few things harm the forward progress of an organization like leaders who fail to understand the value of aligning expectations.
  • The easiest way to judge a leader is by balancing the scorecard between promises made and promises kept.
  • The difference between good and great often comes down to discipline.
  • Complexity is the enemy of the productive.
  • Only way to protect value is to create more of it.
  • The true test of all leaders is not measured by what’s accomplished in their professional life, but rather by what’s accomplished at home.

Every year I think there are a few must read leadership books. Last year I said it was Start with Why. This year, it is Hacking Leadership

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The Problem with Being Politically Correct

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Love this as it relates to leadership and life:

The institutionalization of politically correct thinking has done more to harm operating businesses than just about any other social and/or cultural influence in recent times.

I don’t know about you, but it’s almost as if we’ve raised a generation of leaders who feel they have a moral and ethical obligation to be politically correct—wrong. Their responsibility is to be correct; not politically correct. The harsh truth is politically correct thinking is a large contributor to an increase in mediocre behavior, a decrease in workplace productivity, and of greater concern, to the moral and ethical decay of our society. Are these extreme statements? Perhaps some may think so, but being authentic to my politically incorrect self, I think not.

What’s troubling to me, and I hope to you, is that politically correct assault has invaded classrooms; the media; the work place; federal, state, and local government; the judiciary; the church; the military; and even casual discussions with friends and family. It has spread to pandemic proportions, crossing boarders and cultures, such that you’d be hard pressed to actually find organizations where tough, candid conversations frequently take place without HR mediating them.

Few things will send morale and productivity into decline faster than leadership that adopts a politically correct mind-set. Before those of dissenting (politically correct) opinions become too outraged with my position, let me be perfectly clear; I believe strongly in respect and compassion. These characteristics should be present in all human beings. They are admirable qualities so long as they don’t take precedence over, ignore, or contradict truth.

The main problem with politically correct thinking is that it confuses kindness and courtesy with bureaucratic mandates, and ends up stripping people of their real opinions. I’m not advocating being mean-spirited, arrogant, judgmental, or self-righteous—quite to the contrary. It is very possible, and preferable, to have truth and compassion co-exist without being subject to political correctness. -Mike Myatt, Hacking Leadership: The 11 Gaps Every Business Needs to Close and the Secrets to Closing Them Quickly

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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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  1. 7 things every pastor should do every week on social media. Great ideas.
  2. Brian Howard on How to organize your week.
  3. How to pray for your future husband. Great insights for single and married women.
  4. Brad Lomenick on Why every leader needs a confidant. Totally agree. Here’s how a pastor can find an accountability partner.
  5. 25 apps every leader should be aware of. I love the apps I use for leadership and ministry.
  6. Tony Reinke on God’s delight in you.
  7. How to care for your pastor.
  8. Mike Myatt on The #1 problem every leader has.

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