Why I’m Done Reading on an iPad

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I’ve always been a huge fan of reading and so when the first iPad came out, I quickly dove in and bought it and it quickly became my go to for reading. In fact, I can’t remember now the last time I bought an actual book.

Over time though, I started to dislike reading on my iPad. For a couple reasons:

  1. It is hard to read in the sun or outside when it is hot. Which in Arizona is a big deal.
  2. There is too much else on my iPad to distract me.

The last one is the biggest reason I went looking for a different device to read on.

And now, I only read on a Kindle Voyage. I realize you can get a Kindle that is similar to an iPad for watching movies and using apps, which I obviously didn’t go with for reasons stated above.

It does what I dislike about my iPad (I can read it outside and I have zero distractions on it). Now, I still use my iPad for other reasons.

Reading on a kindle is incredibly helpful. It keeps me focused, I have no other apps on it and have not even set up the browser to use, so the distractions are almost non-existent.

I use my iPad for apps, sports reading (MMQB and ProFootballTalk) and for preaching.

You may ask, as several friends of mine have, why don’t you just read a book.

Some love the feel of a real book in their hand, my wife is one of them.

For me, I love the ease of moving highlights from my kindle to evernote for my filing systems and research. The idea of going through each book after I finished reading them and typing out my quotes feels like an enormous time waster.

Also, I do love how cheap kindle books can be on certain days.

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Two Things Church Planters & Networks Don’t Talk About Part 2

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I’ve been in church planting circles for almost a decade now and have watched countless church planters start with zeal only to fizzle out and quit. The reasons are many, but they come back (often) to only two things.

What is sad about these the reasons is that they are the two least talked about topics on church planting circles.

Most church planters and pastors do not quit or fail in ministry because of theological issues or leadership skills. While this happens and you can lose your job because a denomination changes its stance on something or you fail in your leadership skills, that rarely happens.

The first reason pastors and church planters fail (that is not talked about enough) has to do with leadership healthI am stunned at the number overweight pastors, run down and tired church planters. We get excited about the preaching ability of a pastor but don’t ask him if he is resting well and taking his sabbath. It matters more if a pastor can raise enough money than if he is sleeping and eating well.

The second reason pastors and church planters faith (that is not talked about enough or at least correctly) deals with the pastor’s wife. It is helpful how many church planting networks are now assessing marriages and looking at the character of a man and how he pastors his wife. I’m not talking about that, but what happens in her heart.

One thing I hear from every network I encounter is how much they care about a church planters wife. Yet, when you attend any of their meetings, conferences, boot camps (or whatever else they call them), a wife is absent. We train him and expect her to come along for the ride. We ask him about his calling and assume she’s as excited as he is. We hear him talk about vision and leadership prowess and never ask if she’s excited about attending the church that exists only in his head.

Once the church launches and he’s building a team, following up with guests and killing himself (as we saw in part 1), she is dying by herself.

I remember hearing the pastor of a fast growing church talk about his wife and what she did at the church as far as serving goes and he said, “I’m just glad she attends.” And he was serious. After the nervous laughter everything moved on and I thought, “That’s our bar? She attends.”

Sadly though, church planters, their networks and conferences and books would say it is more than that and they have a higher expectation than that, but our practices don’t back that up.

What if, the priority was placed on caring for a church planters wife, like we do for a pastor? What if we had an expectation that she was as bought in as he is? What if when we ask him how he is growing and what is he reading, we ask her the same question? What if we talked about leadership health for him and for her? What if we were impressed by how much time he gives his wife to refuel her soul as he does to refuel his own? What if we cared about connecting wives with each other as we do of having the brotherhood relate to each other?

I think a lot would change.

While affairs and pornography take down a lot of pastors, part of why it leads to that is we have not placed a high emphasis on the health and well-being of a church planters wife. We talk about the importance of marriage and staying together, but what about the importance of care

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How to Catch Your Breath in December

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Right about now, if you are like most people, you are wondering how you will survive December and get everything done that you need to. The list seems endless. Parties, gifts, people, food, traveling, more food, TV specials, plays and recitals. The list is endless. People are coming and going. If you are in college, you have finals on top of everything else. This is on top of what you normally do in life.

Deep down, we know this isn’t the way we should live life and it feels wrong at Christmas, but stopping to catch our breath seems silly. Impossible. UnAmerican.

It isn’t and deep down, you also know that.

Here are 7 ways to catch your breath this month so that you head into 2015 not exhausted, but refreshed, ready to tackle the New Year:

  1. Schedule some down time. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know I believe that if something is not scheduled, it does not happen. We do things out of habit and planning. Including wasting time watching TV or surfing the internet. Put into your calendar days and nights when nothing is happening. If you don’t, you will run from one thing to the next and not enjoy any of it. 
  2. Say no to something. If you schedule down time into your schedule, chances are you will have to say no to something. This is hard to do. We like to say yes as much as possible, not miss anything and be at all the parties and get togethers, but we can’t and shouldn’t. If we say yes to everything, we will miss the important things. We will miss moments with our kids, friends we really care about and miss out on memories.
  3. Have a food plan and stick to it. One of the areas that causes a lot of frustration for people come January 1st is how much they eat between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Don’t simply show up at the party and eat, have a plan. Here are a couple of ways: Take something healthy to the party. There won’t be a lot of healthy options, so bring one and eat it (think of the memory each year now when you and your friends laugh about the fact that you are the one who brings hummus to the holiday party). Another one? Don’t stand by the food. If you are away from the food, it makes it harder to overeat. The hardest one? Limit how much dessert you eat when you are at parties. And finally: get rid of leftovers as quickly as possible, even if you have to throw them out. 
  4. Go to bed at 10pm as often as possible. Sleep is one of the most overlooked but important areas of our lives. I know, you think you can survive on 4 hours a night and a Coffee IV drip plugged into your arm, but you can’t. You will crash and that crash will happen sometime soon and ruin your holidays or at least make a dent in January when you need get going for the new year. Get to bed. Don’t watch as much TV and if presents aren’t wrapped, put them in a bag and call it a win. 
  5. Don’t wait til January 1st to exercise. In January, health clubs everywhere will be packed. New Years Resolutions will be made to lose that holiday weight you put on. What if you didn’t wait until January to get into shape? Put it into your schedule now. If you workout regularly now, don’t quit over the holidays.
  6. Plan fun memory moments. Christmas is a great time to make memories. The tree, decorations, TV specials, buying and wrapping gifts, plays, the food, the songs. All of it creates moments with family and friends in ways that other times of the year do not. Don’t miss this because you are busy doing other stuff. Spend time reading to your kids, TiVo the Christmas specials and watch them, listen to Christmas music all month, take some special daddy (or mommy) dates with your kids. Make this time special and pack in the memories.
  7. Make your goals for the New Year. Don’t wait til January 1st to make your goals for the New Year. Notice, I didn’t say resolutions. Here is a simple process I use to help you set goals you will actually reach. Don’t make 10 goals this year, make one. What is the one thing that if you accomplished would make the biggest impact in your life and family? Do that.

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My Favorite Things of 2014

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As most bloggers do at the end of the year, they share their favorite lists of the year. Some of these will not make any sense if you don’t live in Tucson and for that I apologize, but if you don’t live here, this might give you a reason to visit. I thought I’d take a quick minute to share some of my favorite movies, albums, podcasts, blogs and places to eat and more from 2014.

Enjoy!

Movies

  1. Lone Survivor
  2. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
  3. Chef
  4. Edge of Tomorrow
  5. The Monuments Men

Albums

  1. Past Life | Lost in the Tress
  2. Islands | Bears Den
  3. After the Disco | Broken Bells
  4. No One Is Lost | Stars
  5. Evergreen | Broods

Date Night Spots

  1. Expensive: 47 Scott
  2. Less Expensive: Pasco Kitchen & Lounge
  3. Happy Hour Deals: Zinburger

Ministry/Leadership Blogs

  1. Carey Nieuwhof
  2. Unseminary
  3. Brian Howard
  4. Will Mancini

Sports Blogs

  1. ProFootballTalk
  2. Bleacher Report
  3. Grantland

Podcasts

  1. Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast
  2. Carey Nieuwhof

Coffee

  1. Black Dog from Macy’s Coffee
  2. Mocha at Cartel
  3. El Salvador from Savaya Coffee

TV Shows

  1. The Good Wife
  2. Brooklyn 99
  3. The Blacklist
  4. Parenthood
  5. PTI

Books (You can see my list of 14 favorite books of the year here)

  1. The Relational Soul: Moving from False Self to Deep Connection Richard Blass & James Cofield
  2. Facing Leviathan: Leadership, Influence, and Creating in a Cultural Storm Mark Sayers
  3. People-Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval-Motivated Leadership Charles Stone

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How to Set Goals for 2015 You Will Reach

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Every year around this time, people begin thinking about the New Year and make resolutions. Sadly, many of these resolutions will not be reached. There is a way, a practice of creating goals you will not only keep but reach.

Here is a simple process I use each year to make goals and reach them:

  1. Call them goals, not resolutions. I want you to think of this as a goal, not a resolution. A goal is something you are working towards, with a destination in mind. It creates all kinds of sports analogies that I think help us in our mind.
  2. Look back before you look forward. One mistake I see a lot of people make when it comes to their goals is they don’t look back and celebrate. Often, our year was not as bad as we think it was. What did God do in the last year? How has God worked, blessed, challenged and sharpened you in the past year? I think an important part of setting goals is celebrating what has already happened (and sometimes lamenting missed opportunities). But, then you get to move forward.
  3. What is the one thing you want to accomplish this year? The last thing is choose one thing, not 15 goals for 2015. Will you accomplish more than one goal this year? Probably, but one of the things many people do that sabotages them is they pick too many things to reach for. What is the one thing, if you accomplished it would make the biggest impact in your life? That’s the one thing you need to do. What if you accomplish this by April? Then set another goal. Two years ago my one goal was writing a book. Six years ago is was losing 100 pounds. Both of those goals took over one year to complete, so it rolled over, but they happened. Choose one thing and only one thing and work until it is done. Is it getting out of debt? Going back to school? Starting a business? Mending a relationship? Do that one thing and then move forward. 

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Two Things Church Planters & Networks Don’t Talk About Part 1

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We planted Revolution Church 6 years ago. Leading up to that, I attended countless conferences, read tons of blogs and books and gathered up as much information as I possibly could. Then, we planted, joined Acts 29 (which I love), have continued to get more training and now I have the opportunity to train and coach church planters.

Sadly though, not every church planter who plants will finish. Not every couple who blazes the trail with excitement and passion with finish with excitement and passion.

Ironically, the reasons for failing, not finishing, falling out of ministry are usually the same.

What is sad about these the reasons is that they are the two least talked about topics on church planting circles.

Most church planters and pastors do not quit or fail in ministry because of theological issues or leadership skills. While this happens and you can lose your job because a denomination changes its stance on something or you fail in your leadership skills, that rarely happens.

The first reason pastors and church planters fail (that is not talked about enough) has to do with leadership health. I am stunned at the number overweight pastors, run down and tired church planters. We get excited about the preaching ability of a pastor but don’t ask him if he is resting well and taking his sabbath. It matters more if a pastor can raise enough money than if he is sleeping and eating well.

If you want a healthy church, have a healthy pastor.

This means a pastor is eating well, sleeping well, taking his vacation days, not preaching 50 Sunday’s a year.

This becomes the responsibility of the pastor as much as the church.

Here are a few things you can do as a leader:

  1. Put into your calendar your day off, preaching break and vacation. Nothing happens if it is not on your calendar. I plan the Sundays I won’t preach over a year in advance so I can work series around them, plan my vacation and so Katie and I can make our schedule work for us instead of the other way around. It is almost Christmas, you should have your summer vacation planned (even if it is a stay-cation). Figure out what Sundays are low attended Sundays and allow people to preach.
  2. Educate your church and elders about leadership health and longevity. Your elders may not understand how important leadership health is. They may also not understand how draining ministry can be. I love being a pastor, but it is a job that never ends and can be relationally, physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally draining. By simply adding the spiritual aspect of ministry, you make this job different from others and that needs to be accounted for. Explain this, tell them your plan for health and longevity, explain what you will do when you aren’t preaching and how this benefits you and the church.
  3. Train people to do what you do. When we planted Revolution, I preached 50 times the first year and 49 the second. It was a disaster. Some of that had to do with my pride but also because I had no one else. So, train other preachers. If you don’t have any, use video sermons from another pastor. Will someone get mad about this? Maybe, but that doesn’t matter.
  4. Crush the idols that keep you from healthy leadership. Pride is a reason many pastors are unhealthy and don’t rest well or eat well. Ask for help. Do some research. Admit to someone that you aren’t sleeping well, that you are using alcohol to help you sleep or taking sleeping pills and now you are addicted. Don’t hide in the shadows because eventually you will run out of steam and quit.
  5. Create a healthy culture in your staff. I get an email almost every week from a lead pastor or staff pastor asking, “How do I rest well? How do I eat well? What do I do when my lead pastor or elders want me to be available 24/7?” The culture in many churches works against healthy leadership, but also biblical principles. Jesus had no problem walking away from everything to rest and recharge. He did it at the worst and most inopportune moments as well. He was also available when people needed him. He balanced that well. If you want to be healthy, you will probably have to train your staff as well. They won’t learn it at any leadership conference or church planting boot camp sadly.

As I said at the start, there are two things that keep pastors and church planters from finishing and those two things are two of (I believe) the least talked about things in church planting circles. Leadership health is the first one, come back next week for the second one.

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Monday Morning Mind Dump…

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  • Feels good after 3 weeks off from preaching to be working on a sermon I’ll preach this Sunday.
  • Jack, Mike and Logan did a great job of working us through our advent series The God I Wish You Knew
  • If you’ve missed any of them, you can listen to them here.
  • People in my church and pastors alike ask what I do on my breaks.
  • I take two breaks from preaching each year: one in the summer (that is for rest and working ahead), around Thanksgiving (this is for review the year, getting ready for the coming year, working on budget stuff, annual plans, etc.).
  • I think more pastors need to think through this lens.
  • This past year, I’ve been re-reading books that I’ve read in the past because I’m in a new leadership role or our church is in a different place than when I read a book that made a huge impact on my leadership.
  • Recently, I’ve been working through Church Unique: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision, Capture Culture, and Create Movement by Will Mancini.
  • This book is like having a consultant come and work with your church for the price of a book.
  • If you’re a pastor and haven’t read it, you should.
  • It’s so helpful, I’m reading it twice.
  • Katie and I watched Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow over the weekend. Crazy intense.
  • I am always amazed at how fast a December schedule can fill up.
  • Crazy.
  • I’ve been thinking through new ways to make Christmas special with my kids, I hope you’ll do the same.
  • We have our staff/elder Christmas party this Friday.
  • Love being with the people I serve with.
  • That hasn’t always been the case and I know many pastors who do not get along with their staff or elder team, so I’m thankful I do.
  • Great to see my Steelers finally pull it together yesterday and get a win.
  • Can’t say the same thing for my Fantasy Football team. They picked the first week of the playoffs to decide to be bad.
  •  Pretty excited for the series we’re doing in 2015 at Revolution: we’re starting with a series called The Art of Living Well on the book of Malachi, then a series on prayer and then at Easter, we’re kicking off a series called The New Rules for Love, Sex and Dating on the book of the Song of Solomon.
  • Should be fun!
  • Time to get back to it…

Surrounding Yourself with the Right People

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If you are a parent, you have told your child that it matters who they spend time with. You’ve said, “Pick the right crowd because you become like the people you spend time with.” We instinctively know that we become who we are with and who we listen to. We become like the blogs we read, the podcasts we listen to and the shows we watch. We know in leadership and work that those around us will determine our success.

Yet, as we grow older we either stop believing this, stop thinking about it or think we are above it.

Here’s a quick test: would you describe yourself as miserable or joy-filled? Are you optimistic or pessimistic? Do you complain about your spouse? Now, ask yourself, how many people that you spend time with (or connecting with on social media) are the same as you.

We know this to be true, but find it difficult to apply.

Here are some ways:

  1. Listen to people. You want people to listen to you when you throw up the red flag about someone in their life, but we don’t do the same. When someone says, “I don’t like the person you are or become after spending with ____.” Listen to them.
  2. Know who you want to become. One of the reasons we are blind in relationships and blind to who influences us is because we are unsure of the kind of person we want to become. We have ideas about it, but if you boil it down, few people actually know. We often know more of what we don’t want to be like, which is not as helpful as knowing where you are headed. Knowing where you don’t want to be leaves you aimless and can lead you almost anywhere.
  3. Find people older than you to share their wisdom. The older I get, the more I want to be around older people so I can gain their wisdom and learn from their mistakes. Yes, I have friends my age and younger, but they know as little as I do. You should always have someone older speaking into your life and influencing you.

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How to Ace a Video Interview

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It used to be that if you were interviewing, you just had to be good on the phone or in a face to face interview. Now, the game has changed. Whether you are interviewing for a job or being interviewed for a show, you might find yourself on a video chat and when that happens, many of the rules change.

Here are 4 ways to help you succeed in a video interview:

1. Dress appropriately. Remember, this isn’t a phone interview so they can see you. Comb your hair, iron your shirt, look presentable. If you are doing a video interview, dress like you would if you were going to an office for an interview. I remember one video interview we did over the summer and I couldn’t see the person’s eyes. All I could think of was, we can’t hire him, he isn’t even looking us in the eyes.

2. Check your equipment. Your equipment will make or break a video iinterview This doesn’t mean you need a TV quality studio with an HD camera, but make sure you test your equipment. Do a practice run with someone, check the volume, make sure you can hear the people asking you questions. Look at what is in the camera and what they will see, because what we see on your end will tell us what you want us to know about you. One person we interviewed kept going in and out so we couldn’t hear them. Another one was poorly lit and looked like a criminal. Another person did the interview in their bedroom with an unmade bed in the background. Remember: everything communicates so make sure you are sending the right message.

3. Be overly excited. Because you are on a video, it is harder to hear the energy in your voice or see it on your face or feel the energy you will normally have in a face to face conversation. We can’t shake hands to make a connection so you have to do it otherwise. In addition, look at the camera. Nothing is worse than the feeling someone is looking at something else while talking to you. I know this will feel weird for you because it means you will be staring at yourself on a screen, but that is the way it goes.

4. Ask them questions. I say this in every post I’ve written about interviewing, but ask the people interviewing you questions, even if you know the answers. It shows you care and are interested in them and what they are doing, not just getting the job.

I’ll be honest, I think you lose something crucial in a video interview, but it is also unavoidable in the world we live in. Because of that, you need to become incredibly at video interviewing to get ahead.

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14 Favorite Books of 2014

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It’s that time of year again, time to share my top lists of the year. If you are a regular on this blog, you know that I love to read. You can read my recent reviews of books here.

Each year, I post a list of my favorite books of the year. To see my list of favorite books from past year, simply click on the numbers: 2009201020112012 and 2013. To me, I love this list because it shows what has influenced me in the past year, where I’m growing and what God is teaching me. If you are a leader, you should be a reader, there is no way around that.

To make this list, it does not have to be published in 2014, I only needed to read it in 2014. As always, this list was hard to narrow down, but here are the top 14 books of 2014:

14. What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done | Matthew Perman

What sets this book apart from others on productivity: Its emphasis on understanding how the gospel impacts productivity, How the gospel frees us to be productive, and it also brings together some of the best ideas from other books on productivity to show a better system that combines the strengths of different systems.

13. Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know | Meg Meeker

To me, this is such an empowering book for fathers. We often feel unsure, at a loss of how to relate to our daughters, how to treat them differently than a son, or how to feel like we are moving forward in a relationship with them. This book is about what a daughter needs from a father that a mother cannot give. This book gave me such a clear understanding of how to interact with our daughter, how to build a relationship with her and prepare her for the life ahead of her. I can’t recommend this book highly enough to Dad’s of daughters.

12. Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds Carmine Gallo

Giving a presentation that truly moves people takes hard work. Let’s face it, many pastors are lazy. They become a pastor because it seems easier, they read a lot and most people don’t have a high expectation for a sermon to be great (sadly). They are simply hoping for short. Preaching is hard work. If you aren’t willing to put in the hard work, don’t preach. At the end of the day, someone pays a price for a sermon, the pastor or the church. This is the best preaching book of the year.

11 The Catalyst Leader: 8 Essentials for Becoming a Change Maker | Brad Lomenick

One of the things I’ve been chewing on from this book all year has been, “To get to the top and to be successful at the top requires two different skill sets.” Such a helpful book for younger leaders.

10. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration | Ed Catmull

This book was so good and eye opening, it took me 3 posts to share all that I learned from it. You can read those posts here, here and here.

9. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less Greg McKeown

Two things stood out to me in this book that have shaped a lot of my life: If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will and If it is not a definite yes, then it is no.

8. Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God Timothy Keller

I debated between this book and Keller’s book on suffering for this list. Both were helpful and meaningful in different ways, but his book on prayer opened my eyes on how to pray to God as Father and how to meditate on Scripture in deeper ways. If prayer is a struggle for you, this book is well worth working through.

7. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers | Ben Horowitz

Even though this is not a church planting book, it is by far, the best church planting book of the year. So many insights from this small business guru that is relevant for churches and church plants.

6. Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church | Scot McKnight

This book challenged me in some ways I didn’t expect. How to read the Bible through the lens of Jesus was one and how to see how God worked through all of history instead of jumping from Genesis 3 to Matthew 1 when we read the Bible. The other was, seeing Jesus as King when I think about him. This may seem obvious depending on your church background, but I appreciate the emphasis that McKnight places on Jesus as King. My church background seems to focus on Jesus as Savior and Redeemer, which He is and leave the King part until the end of the world. Yet, Jesus is King, now and forever.

5. Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You | John Ortberg

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.

4. Hacking Leadership: The 11 Gaps Every Business Needs to Close and the Secrets to Closing Them Quickly Mike Myatt

This was the most relevant and helpful business leadership book that pastors should read this year. Myatt covers the gaps that exist in any business (church) and how to overcome them. This is a leadership book that I will re-read in years to come. I found it that helpful.

3. People-Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval-Motivated Leadership Charles Stone

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.

2. Facing Leviathan: Leadership, Influence, and Creating in a Cultural Storm Mark Sayers

The point of the book of the book is to show how leadership has changed, how culture has changed and what leadership looks like moving forward. I am thankful as Sayers points out, we are moving away from deconstruction in our leadership and culture and moving towards rebuilding. I’m hopeful Christians get this idea as many leaders seem to be behind the times and keep talking about deconstructing.

1. The Relational Soul: Moving from False Self to Deep Connection Richard Blass & James Cofield

I’ve read maybe 3-4 life altering books. This was one of them. The authors walk through why we fail at relationships so often and show how that begins the before we are even born, but then our inability to deal with what our lives have been like and how to move forward. Many people cannot work well with others, can’t engage in their family or marriage, struggle to make work connections and all because of something in their past that has not been deal with. This isn’t to say that it is easy, only that, to live in true freedom and be our “true self” as the authors put it, we must deal with those things.