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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6 ways to stay off the emotional roller coaster of ministry.

Ministry is an emotional roller coaster. Much of leadership is for that matter. One day you’re on top of the world,. The next day you want to bury yourself in a deep cave. You probably think only the way to get off the emotional roller coaster of ministry is to quit. To leave it for a more normal life. It’s not. In fact, I don’t recommend it.

Thom Rainer on 10 fears of church leaders.

Leading a church means the leader will have critics. Sometimes the criticisms become so frequent that it seems easier not to lead. For pastors and other church leaders, the steady inflow of negative comments becomes emotionally, spiritually, and physically draining.

Joshua Shaw on 7 ways to engage men in church.

One would think that with the rise of church planting and prolific pastors and authors advocating for a type of “strong man” Christianity, we would see a difference in the membership of young fast-growing churches. But from mine and many others’ experiences, this trend of a manless Christianity has not only continued, but gotten worse. We have done everything we can to open the doors for their acceptance and involvement, but when push comes to shove, the idea of staying at home watching ESPN, designing a logo for a new company, finishing a work project, or merely sleeping in, becomes top priority.

Eric Geiger on Your leadership shelf life.

Leadership is always a temporary assignment—always. It is a temporary assignment because leaders do not ultimately own the teams, ministries, or organizations that they lead. They simply steward what the Lord has entrusted to their care for a season. Wise leaders embrace the temporal reality of leading, and they prepare the ministry for the future. Because the assignment is fleeting, developing others for leadership is an essential responsibility of a leader.

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Book Notes | People Pleasing Pastors


This past week I read Charles Stone’s new book People-Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval-Motivated Leadership (kindle version).

This book is unlike any other I’ve read. First, it hits a topic that every pastor or leader (and probably most humans) struggle with: people pleasing. This is an enormous deal for pastors and churches. Second, it combines stories and real life examples with a ton of helpful research on how our brains work and what drives leaders to care what others think. Third, it ends with some incredibly helpful insights to fight people pleasing in your leadership.

I can’t recommend this book high enough.

Here are a few things that jumped out in my reading:

  • Healthy and successful leadership has little to do with what I can do to get others to like me.
  • Chronic criticism is, if anything, often a sign that the leader is functioning better!
  • Christians, perhaps uniquely so, struggle with people pleasing because we’re “supposed to” be sweet and nice. And some professions, by their very nature, draw people into them because they offer opportunities to help others. Ministry and politics both fall into that category. Both pastors and politicians, if rightly motivated, want to help and serve others. However, that very desire often makes us most susceptible to people pleasing.
  • I wonder how the decisions I made that were motivated by a desire to please somebody in the church resulted in missing God’s best.
  • What makes people-pleasing, approval-motivated leadership so detrimental? It’s subtle, often counterintuitive and stifling to a spiritual leader’s passion and joy if left unchecked.
  • The ultimate test to determine whether or not our people pleasing is wrong is whether or not it promotes the gospel.
  • We know we’ve pleased others in a healthy way when they are better off when we do it and when we sense God’s peace in our hearts.
  • As a leader, when I seek consensus or appeasement in a situation, rather than lead from a place of principle and vision, I abdicate my authority and nobody “wins.”
  • People-pleasing leadership gets its direction and behavior from outside (people we strive to please) rather than from inside (personal values, convictions and vision).
  • Our emotional response to a church event or a difficult relationship issue often does more to raise our anxiety than the event itself.
  • When we refuse to give in to people pleasing, those pushing us to change lose their power over us and over our ministries.
  • A pastor who understands and accepts how God uniquely fashioned him won’t be as motivated to seek others’ approval.
  • We are affected by the emotional influences from our past, and I believe the Bible’s genealogical lists reflect this. The more we learn about generational influences the better we can free ourselves from their unhealthy patterns, especially people pleasing, because it often finds its roots in prior generations.
  • The following family dysfunctions often contribute to people-pleasing patterns: Perfectionistic parents who set the bars so high that their children seldom received affirmation and love from them. Affirmation in these families was conditional. Nagging “oughts” and “shoulds” still whisper in the minds of those children long into adulthood. Being super nice or compliant garnered approval from parents. Pastors who came from these homes subconsciously think that being nice in their churches will likewise make people happy. Growing up in a home where one or both parents were alcoholics. Having parents who excessively doted on their children or extravagantly praised them.
  • When a pastor doesn’t pay attention to the emotional blips in his own soul, he can set himself up for needless pain and diminished leadership effectiveness.
  • A ministry leader’s least healthy responses to anxiety most often show up as emotional reactivity—that is, not being able to restrain emotions.
  • A leader’s mood profoundly influences those around him as people tend to reflect their leader’s tone, whether it’s good or bad.

To see other book notes, click here.

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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.


Dorie Clark on Why we can’t stop working.

The ROI of work is immediately apparent. You get instant feedback and, oftentimes, instant gratification in the form of raises, promotions, new contracts, or general approbation. The arc of family life is different. In the moment, it can be banal, boring, or discouraging.

Perry Noble on 7 ways to be rich.

Give it TIME…what we spent years messing up will most likely not be fixed in three days, or even three weeks!

Dave Bruskas on 4 priorities for pastors from Christmas to Easter.

Christmas, with all its ministry demands, has come and gone. You’ve had a few days off. But you are still very tired as you approach the long run to Easter. How should you prioritize your time and energy? What can you do to recover?

Will Mancini on Ministry trends of 2014 leaders can’t ignore.

Sometimes you can dismiss a trend as a fad. Like Crocs, the Harlem Shake, or flash mobs. At other times to dismiss a trend is just a mistake. As in every era, some of today’s trends will become tomorrow’s reality. Innovative leaders aren’t afraid to embrace change and to be some of the first in on the shifts they see around them. In that spirit, here are 5 trends you’ll no longer be able to dismiss in 2014.

Tony Merida on 9 benefits of expository preaching.

Expository preaching is an approach that is founded on certain theological beliefs, such as the role of the preacher according to Scripture, the nature of the Scripture, and the work of the Spirit. Therefore, many of the benefits for doing exposition are hard to measure. However, nine practical-theological benefits are worth noting.

If you miss your family, you miss everything.

7 crippling parenting behaviors that keep your kids from becoming leaders.

I was intrigued, then, to catch up with leadership expert Dr. Tim Elmore and learn more about how we as parents are failing our children today — coddling and crippling them — and keeping them from becoming leaders they are destined to be. Tim is a best-selling author of more than 25 books, including Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their FutureArtificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenges of Becoming Authentic Adults, and theHabitudes® series. He is Founder and President of Growing Leaders, an organization dedicated to mentoring today’s young people to become the leaders of tomorrow.

Ed Stetzer on 5 ways to teach your kids to hate the ministry.

To put it bluntly, a lot of pastors’ children hate the ministry. My team interviewed 20 pastors’ kids who are adults now. They provided some insights that were both inspiring and disturbing. Children with a pastor-parent can grow to hate the ministry for many reasons, but there are five guaranteed ways you can make sure they hate being a pastor’s kid (PK).

OK Go “This too Shall Pass”
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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.


Nick Roen on An alternative script for same-sex attraction.

“There is nothing wrong with living a gay lifestyle. In fact, if you repress who you are, you will never live a happy, fulfilled life. Be true to yourself!” This is the overwhelming message of society regarding homosexuality. Mark Yarhouse refers to this as “the gay script,” the blueprint for how homosexuals are to live. “Embrace who you are,” a swelling number shout, “and you will find happiness!” I disagree.

Fast Company on 10 surprising stats about social media that will make you change your social media strategy.

Tom Ascol on 35 lessons from being a pastor for 35 years.

Thirty-five years ago this month I began serving my first church as pastor. The Rock Prairie Baptist Church in College Station, Texas took a major risk on a senior Texas A&M student by issuing me a call to be their pastor. It was my happy privilege to serve them for nearly two years before being called to the Spring Valley Baptist Church in Dallas. I am currently in my twenty-eighth year of serving Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida. As I recently reflected on the last thirty-five years I wrote down some lessons learned and convictions I’ve come to or continued to hold.

Thom Rainer on Pastors and christmas gifts.

I asked a simple question on Twitter: What do you do for your pastor at Christmas time? For pastors, I asked what their congregations gave them at Christmas. Though my survey was not scientific, it was nevertheless revealing. I am truly concerned about how congregations treat pastors. I thought the issue of the Christmas gift would at least be an indicator of such concern.

Matt Walsh on Men, your porn habit is an adultery habit.

I know a guy who cheats on his wife. He cheats on her every day. He cheats on her multiple times a day. He’s a husband and a father and a serial adulterer.

Mark Driscoll on How many people should go on the honeymoon?

In the absence of any cultural definition of gender or marriage, let alone any restriction on sex, relationships in our society will only get cloudier. We will see polygamy legalized in my lifetime, perhaps even in the next twenty years.

Michael Lukaszewski on Why people don’t do what you preach.

Your content was carefully researched, outlined in detail, and prayed over it multiple times. You put in hours of study on an important topic and you communicate your guts out, only to have people walk out the door and forget everything by lunch or kickoff. You delivered a faithful, accurate, truthful and well-written message. And nobody did anything.

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.


Tim Kimberley on Should a Christian couple live together before getting married.

You are counseling a couple, who claim to be Christian, that are sleeping together and believe they are “married in their hearts”. They would like to become members of your church. Describe how would you handle this couple, including how you would address the issue of being “married in their hearts?”

Brian Dodd on 8 practices of great churches.

Are you looking to build an enduring church?  Are you looking for a level of ministry  success which can be sustained for a decade?  Are you looking to build something of lasting value?  Of course you do.

7 signs your church is making inroads with unchurched people.

Just because a church is growing doesn’t mean it’s filling up with unchurched people. How do you know you’re really making inroads with the unchurched?

Jon Acuff on Dear Church, 11 signs your burning out your staff.

I love the church and for the part I’ve played in these problems, I apologize. If you work at a church thanks for doing what you do. My kids, my marriage and my town need you.

Marci Preheim on Gospel centered sex.

If a couple consistently applies the implications of the gospel to the marriage bed, they will inevitably have a healthier marriage.

What does it mean to be gospel centered?

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.

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.


  1. Feeling shame is not repentance.
  2. Thom Rainer on The stages of a pastor’s ministry. This is true in church planting as well. Makes me excited that I’m moving into Year 6 at Revolution.
  3. How to fire someone in ministry.
  4. Matt Walsh on You’re a stay at home mom? What do you do all day? Katie and I hear this a lot and it always blows my mind. Great way of putting it in this blog.
  5. What Sam Storms wished he had known when he started ministry 40 years ago. Tons of wisdom here for pastors.
  6. Tim Challies on The porn free family.
  7. Fat men can’t lead men.

The New Hobbit Trailer

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.


  1. Ed Stetzer on Has Dr. King’s dream come true?
  2. Mark Driscoll on It’s all about the numbers. Really well said.
  3. 6 subtle signs your organization has silos.
  4. Jay Dennis on Pornography and pastors.
  5. 10 questions to ask about your work/life balance.
  6. Perry Noble on The one thing that holds leaders back.
  7. Seeing God in your work.
  8. John Stott on How to preach with authority.
  9. 10 football books leaders should read.
  10. Dave Bruskas on How to rest in ministry.
  11. Donald Miller on People aren’t following you because you aren’t clear.
  12. What Matt Chandler wished he knew when he started ministry. This series is gold for pastors and those entering ministry.

Top Posts of June 2013

In case you missed them, here are the top posts for the month of June, 2013:

  1. The Most Important Minutes to a Guest on a Sunday Morning
  2. 15 Ways to Improve Your Marriage
  3. How You Know You are Being Divisive (And Sinning)
  4. A Man Feels Called to Plant a Church but His Wife Does Not. Should He Plant?
  5. I Can’t Compete With Your Perfectly Coiffed Hair & other Perfections
  6. Should I Get Re-Baptized?
  7. Letting Go of Ministry Hurts
  8. 21 Skills of Great Preachers
  9. Creating a Personal/Family Mission Statement
  10. The 2 Kinds of People Who Like to Talk Theology