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.

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.


Justin Lee on When Christian’s are Christianity’s worst enemy.

I’m a Christian. I’m proud of my faith, and I love the church. But sometimes my fellow Christians make me want to scream.

Jessica Stillman on 5 secrets of public speaking from the best TED presenters.

How can you borrow a bit of the magic that garners some TED talks millions upon millions of views? An author of a book on the subject shares some secrets.

Tim Stevens on How to help a leader leave your church well.

These situations are going to be messy. A “good leave” is not defined by lack of mess. It is defined by how both sides respond to the mess and work through it with love and grace.

Trevin Wax on Book notes from Playing God, David & Goliath, and Die Empty.

Will Mancini on The 4 types of church members every church has and how they relate to the mission of the church.

A helpful way to shepherd your people with relationship to the mission of Jesus is to ask two simple questions: 1) Is the person clear about the vision of your church? 2) Is the person wanting to make a contribution?

U2’s new song “Ordinary Love” from the new Mandela movie. Such a great song and I can’t wait to see this movie.

Tuesday Morning Book Review || Start with Why


Every 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 Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (kindle version) by Simon Sinek.

As of today, this is the best book I’ve read all year. This is a book that if you are a leader, you need to read.

The thrust of the book is what Sinek calls The Golden Circle of “Why, what, and how” (see image below).


Most pastors struggle with this concept. They can talk all day about “what” their church does. They can even tell you the inner workings of “how” their church works. Very few can tell you “why” they do anything. And, if they are seeing the results (“what”) based off of why.

In fact, this is what many churches and pastors do at conferences. They hear a speaker talk about “what” they do a their church, go home and copy it. That church grew because they preach through books of the Bible. That church grew because of video sermons. That church grew because of louder music. Yet, they never ask “why” did that church do that in the first place? What made them have to do that? That’s what the why is.

This book came at the right time for me and was a great reminder. Revolution Church is about to turn 5 years old in a couple of weeks. We are beginning plans to plant our first church in the next year. Our missional communities are growing, more leaders are getting developed. Everything is working. We are seeing results. At this point, it is easy for a church to drift and get fuzzy as Sinek calls it.

Here’s a video of Sinek talking in this topic at TED:

Tuesday Morning Book Review || How to Deliver a TED Talk

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 How to Deliver a TEDTalk (kindle version) by Jeremy Donovan. If you are unfamiliar with TED, it is a conference with the goal of spreading ideas. It is also one of the places where some of the greatest communicators of our time have given some great talks. You can watch them all here.

If you speak as a pastor or in your job, Jeremy Donovan has done us a great service. He spent hours watching talks from the best and worst of TED and compiled what they did in a simple, 100 page book. While some ideas are not brand new, they are helpful.

Here are a few:

  • You must have planted one seed that either awakens their consciousness to a new way of thinking or persuades them to take action. Your objective is to sow a single seed of inspiration.
  • To captivate your audience, help them make an enemy of the status quo and see the positive promise of tomorrow that is just out of reach and worth the effort.
  • The first ten or twenty seconds of your speech is the peak of your audience’s engagement level.
  • The most consistently successful opening is the personal story. Though we will go in to much greater depth on storytelling in an upcoming chapter, here is what you need to remember. First, your personal story should really be personal. Tell your own story and share your observations. It is a good idea to make others the heroes in your stories. Second, make sure your story is directly relevant to your core message.
  • If you go the powerful question route, I recommend that you use “why” questions and “how” questions. “Why” questions are by far the most enticing since they tap into our natural curiosity to understand the world around us. Once we know why things happen, then we want to know how to make good things happen and how to prevent bad things from happening. If the “why” is implied or well understood, then you can open with a “how” question.
  • In the reformulated “why” and “how” openings I constructed for Jamie Oliver’s speech, you probably noticed that I snuck the word “you” in a few times. That magic word transforms a good question into a great question by putting your listeners in introspective mode. You want them thinking about themselves and their world.
  • To successfully string multiple questions together in an opening, they must all have the same answer.
  • Do not open with a quote – it is cliché even if it is relevant. Do not open with a joke, for the same reason. Do not open with anything even mildly offensive to your audience. Do not open with a Dilbert cartoon – oh, if I had a penny for that one … Do not open with “Thank you …” – if you want to thank your audience, do it at the end. Do not open with “Before I begin …” – since you just began.
  • Your goal should be to reinforce the benefit to your audience, the “why”, in your conclusion.
  • Since change is hard, give your audience an easy next step they can take today to get moving in the right direction.
  • resist all temptation to introduce new material at the end.
  • As a speaker, one of the worst things you can do is put yourself on a pedestal. Position yourself as an equal, perhaps a guide, but not superior to your listeners.
  • You should “come across as similar (to your audience) but with a special process.” The special process is the ‘how’ that you are selflessly sharing.

As I said, if you preach, this is a book worth reading.

Links for Your Weekend Reading

  1. CNN on The demise of guys: How video games & porn are ruining a generation. Also, check out the author giving a talk at TED on the topic here. This reality is one of the reasons Revolution Church exists. 
  2. Here is a new song Paul is teaching this weekend at Revolution Church
  3. Evangelize, don’t indoctrinate your kids. Great word for parents. 
  4. Al Mohler on The Bible condemns a lot, but here’s why we focus on homosexuality
  5. 7 tips on communicating well
  6. Jared Wilson on What Jesus does with sin

Links of the Week

  1. The Village Church on Churches planting churches. Right now, we are starting to work through plans to plant our first church as Revolution. I’m hoping this happens in the next 2 – 5 years. This vision is also one of the reasons I am excited about Revolution joining Acts 29.
  2. To your tweets into a journal.
  3. Sam Harris of Fast Company wrote an article about contradictions in the Bible. Justin Holcomb and Matt Perman wrote two great responses to the article. You can read Justin’s here (love Justin’s title Why Fast Company need to do their homework) and Matt’s here. On the same topic, if you have questions about the Bible, how we got it, if there are contradictions in it. A great book to check out is The Big Book of Bible Difficulties.
  4. Is the church afraid of modesty?
  5. Jamie Munson on Leading your family in stewardship. One of the roles of a husband/father is to lead their family. The area of stewardship, how your family spends their money, time and resources all fits under the category of stewardship.
  6. How great leaders aspire action.
  7. Ed Stetzer’s take on George Barna’s research on the resurgence of the reformed camp.
  8. Josh Buice on The troubling view of Joel Osteen. Joel has a new book out and was recently on The View and continued his teaching of not wanting to offend anyone with the gospel.
  9. The journey of Lecrae. If more rap was like Lecrae, I would listen to more rap.
  10. Perry Noble on The price of being a leader.
  11. Is it possible to be too nice as a leader? Ron Edmondson thinks so, great stuff.
  12. Mark Driscoll on Daddy christmas tips. These are great and a must read for every dad.

Links of the Week

  1. Great discussion on women leaders in the church over at Scot McKnight’s blog.
  2. Carlos Whitaker on 10 things every speaker needs to know. There are some gems in this list.
  3. Tony Morgan on Leading vs. managing. Is there a difference? Does it matter?
  4. Gary Hamel on Nine ways to identify natural leaders.
  5. State of the States: Importance of Religion. This is a fascinating study that Gallup did on how important religion is in all 50 States.
  6. Scot McKnight on Struggling to pray. Have you ever felt like you didn’t know how to pray? Or, people’s prayers sound differently than how they talk or write? How do you pray normally?
  7. Mark Batterson on the art of blessing. This is such an important thing, especially as a dad that we can do for our kids, but rarely happens. We did this at the birth of each of our kids and I’ve been thinking through what this looks like at major transition points and in everyday life.