14 Favorite Books of 2014


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.

How to Transition a Church from Small Groups to Missional Communities


Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve shared 7 things that I and my church has learned since we transitioned our church from small groups to missional communities. At the time, things were going great. We had over 85% of our adults in a small group, but it wasn’t producing the change, discipleship and leaders we hoped it would. So, we made the change to missional communities. Below are 7 things we learned in the process:

  1. Always Start with Why
  2. Get Essential Leaders on Board
  3. How to Handle Someone who is not on Board
  4. Leaders Lead by Example
  5. Remove Barriers to What is Most Important
  6. Prepare for Losses
  7. Celebrate Small Wins

Links I Like


Denny Burk on What did Jesus think of homosexuality?

Erik Raymond on Unconditional love.

In one sense this is true, God’s love for his people is not based upon what they do or do not do. But this does not mean that God loves us unconditionally. If God loves anyone he loves them conditionally.

Barnabas Piper on Are millenials less godly than previous generations?

So what is it young people are leaving behind? In many cases they are leaving a faux godliness. Millions of lost people, people hanging their hat on morality or mere attendance, populated the pews of the church in previous generations. They were just a lot harder to pick out than those who brazenly walk out the door, so hard we can’t even be sure how many there were.

Aaron Armstrong on How should we talk about God?

While God is very comfortable attributing feminine characteristics to Himself, when He does so, it is typically in the form of a simile—God’s love and longing for His people is like that of a mother hen’s for her chicks. His anguish over sin is like that of a woman in labor. But when God chooses to reveal Himself, and when He gives us context for our relationship with Him, He does so in the masculine—as Father.

Mike Leake on Missional love.

Love is essential to who God is and it’s out of this love that he sent his Son to die. God’s love (and all true love) is not insular. It’s not looking in and loving oneself. That’s why the two greatest commandments according to Jesus are love God and love neighbor. That’s also why God as trinity is essential orthodoxy. God has been and will always be a God who overflows in his love for others. This originates with his love within the trinity and overflows onto us.

You are not the next anyone!

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Monday Morning Mind Dump…

mind dump

  • Ah Monday morning.
  • Pastor, if you got some criticism this morning like I did, just let it go.
  • Excited that this weekend is Memorial Day weekend.
  • I’m off from preaching this week.
  • So excited to have my leadership coach Brian Howard in town to preach.
  • He’s one of the smartest leaders I know and if you don’t already, you should check out his blog.
  • We’re going to take a break from our Galatians series this week and he’s going to talk about reconciling relationships from the book of Philemon.
  • Speaking of Galatians, it was awesome yesterday preaching on Galatians 2 and the topic of justification by faith.
  • Such a huge topic and so crucial to Christianity.
  • If you missed it, you can listen to it here.
  • So awesome getting to meet so many first time guests yesterday.
  • After 2 years of working on the project, I signed my first book deal this past week.
  • So excited for the road ahead and to get the book out.
  • I started training with a fitness coach that is being hugely helpful for my mobility.
  • Of all the areas I’m weak when it comes to working out, it’s mobility.
  • If you don’t have coaches in your life to help you grow in your weaknesses, you will never reach your potential.
  • I finally finished the book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done.
  • I’ll post a review this week, but in short, if you are looking for a book on productivity, this is one of the best ones out there.
  • Christian or not.
  • Really helpful.
  • Over the next 2 months we will have some up and coming leaders in our church preaching.
  • So excited about who God has put at our church and the gifts they possess.
  • I’m also really excited about my summer preaching break.
  • It’s a blessing to me, my family and to our church in so many ways.
  • Time to get back to it…
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Celebrate Small Wins

Celebrate pinned on noticeboard

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at Exponential on the topic of transitioning a church with small groups to a church with Missional Communities. A few asked for some notes on it and thought I’d do a few blog posts on it.

The first step in this process is to start with why and the win of this transition. The second step is to get essential leaders on board. Next you need to handle leaders who do not get on board in a loving way, how leaders lead by example in showing a church what is most important and how a leaders shoots themselves in the foot by having too many options. Finally, when making any change a leader must learn how to grieve losses personally and help others grieve losses.

The last thing to keep a transition moving is to celebrate wins, no matter how small.

You may be great at celebrating things, but most pastors I meet, they are terrible at celebrating things. Part of it is personality, part of it is that they are trained to look for things that are broken and fix them, so they tend to focus on the negative. Many of them are big picture thinkers so they struggle to see how small things add up to big things, they are only looking for the life changing, new church, huge growth instead of the small, everyday life change.

If you don’t learn how to celebrate small wins, you will burnout and miss what God is doing. Your church will also wonder if it is winning.

One of the benefits to using the umbrella of discipleship as the win for your church and MC’s is that almost anything can be a win. That is a good thing. I also think that is how God wants the church to be. Baptism, people taking the step of following Jesus are win’s. But so is someone joining an MC, giving for the first time, reading their bible for the first time, sharing their story at MC, letting someone serve them when they have a need, serving someone when they have a need. All of those are wins because all of those steps are people taking steps to be more like Jesus.

To make any successful change, celebrate any win possible. To keep your church moving forward, having momentum, look for anything to celebrate and share it. Always point out to your people, we are winning, we are moving forward.


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Book Notes | Soul Keeping, The Heart is the Target & Replant

Normally on Saturday’s I share some thoughts on a book I read recently. You can read past book notes here.

This week, I want to share some quick hits. I had a cross country plane ride recently, so I had the time to get through several books (and one of them was really short).


First up, Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You by John Ortberg.

This book was so good. Easily one of the best books of the year. As soon as I was done with it, I made Katie read it. Her take, 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.

Can’t recommend this book enough.


The second book is a preaching book called The Heart is the Target: Preaching Practical Application from Every Text by Murray Capill.

This is a book that every preacher should read, but especially if you are an expository preacher. This book is written to that audience and seeks to help pastors who are good at giving information, making sermons feel like seminary classes or preachers who excel at “deep preaching” but struggle to see transformation, apply what they preach to their churches or see hearts changed through their preaching. This was a stretching book and very timely for me and I’ve already seen a change in my preaching because of it.


Lastly, Replant: How a Dying Church Can Grow Again by Darrin Patrick & Mark DeVine.

Having replanted a church I was interested in the knowledge this book could provide. I also think replanting is something we will see more often in church planting circles in the coming years as more and more older churches die and their buildings sit vacant or with a small crowd. While this book tells a great story of a church that was replanted, it lacks a lot of how-to’s on the topic. If you want to see how one leader did it, this is a helpful book, but you will not find a ton of transferable lessons, only encouragement if you can relate to the situation Darrin and Mark found themselves in.

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Links for Your Weekend Reading


Millenials and the church.

Media consumers in the 0s, 10s, 20s, and 30s have no such print alliances. To them, the idea of printing on a dead tree and then trucking it to houses and newsstands seems ludicrous, old-fashioned, inconvenient, and wasteful. To these folks, paper-based publications are a pain to carry and search, easy to misplace, and hard to share, and the information in them is outdated the moment it appears. For those who weren’t raised on paper, digital is superior in almost every way.

Chuck Lawless on Reflections on leadership.

You are the leader now, but you will not lead forever. Callings change. Health issues erupt. Organizations restructure. And – though this thought is difficult for some of us to imagine – those organizations often go on well without us. We sometimes become only one of the pictures of past leaders hanging on the wall, all photographic reminders that an organization is much bigger than we are.

Erik Raymond on Can you keep your kids from running away from God after graduation?

Who or what are you trying to make? When I look at my kids I want them to be able to do three things (concerning Christianity): 1) Read / Understand the Bible, 2) Pray, 3) Talk to people about the Bible. How do you do this? I think you have to regularly expose them to the Bible, the Sunday gathering, fellowship in the church, and family Bible reading, and discussions of spiritual things.

David Murray on 50 reasons to sleep longer.

We are sleeping between one and two hours less per night than people did 60 or so years ago and it’s having a devastating impact upon every part of our lives.

Don’t waste your loneliness.

I have found that the sooner a friendship boldly makes Christ the center of the relationship, the deeper the roots have grown.

Eric Geiger on Read or get out the ministry.

While I would not consider myself a “reading expert,” reading has been a significant part of my development for the last 20 years. I view reading as an opportunity to interact with great thinkers and leaders. I typically am working through multiple books at a time. Before kids entered our world, I averaged reading two books a week. The quantity of my reading has slowed for this season, but I still take reading very seriously. Here are some suggestions based on my experiences with books.

Common problems in modern preaching. This is right on. Listen up expository preachers.

Too many of our sermons are actually theological lectures, and our aim is usually to inform the mind rather than melt the heart.

How to preach in an age of distraction.

The preacher’s business is with the mind; we have to get people’s attention, and hold their attention, if we hope for our message to make a difference. Anything that distracts our listeners or readers from our message can impact our hours of work and prayer.

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How to Prepare for Losses in Leadership


Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at Exponential on the topic of transitioning a church with small groups to a church with Missional Communities (MC’s). A few asked for some notes on it and thought I’d do a few blog posts on it.

The first step in this process is to start with why and the win of this transition. The second step is to get essential leaders on board. Next you need to handle leaders who do not get on board in a loving way, how leaders lead by example in showing a church what is most important and how a leaders shoots themselves in the foot by having too many options.

What I wasn’t prepared for as our church transitioned to MC’s and what I think many leaders are not prepared for when a change occurs is the losses that come with that change.

This isn’t just about losing people, although any change is such that not everyone will go with you, but also as a church grows and MC’s multiply, there is excitement and pain associated with that, which is often not discussed in church circles.

First, to lead any change, a leader must be prepared for not everyone to go with them. Some leaders will feel this more personally than others. Some will feel paralyzed with the fear of people leaving, others will try to move past it “for the sake of the vision.” Regardless of your personality, you will feel this personally. Every person who leaves Revolution Church hurts personally on some level to me. I want everyone to be a part of what we are doing, but know they can’t.

Leaders do not grieve well. When someone leaves your church, regardless of the reason, grieve it. Allow yourself to feel it before moving on. Too many pastors try to move on quickly and then as losses pile up they eventually snap. If God has called you to what you are doing, then losses will occur, they will hurt, but you will be able to move forward.

Men, this is an opportunity to shepherd your wife. She will feel the loss of people more than you do. When people leave a church over something the pastor does, he is able to shrug it off, get back to work or chalk it up to “they weren’t on board.” Your wife can’t do that. She will often think about it. She isn’t able to compartmentalize it and get back to work. She can’t write a sermon about divisive people and take out her frustration (although I wouldn’t recommend doing that when people leave your church).

The last loss I was not prepared for when it comes to MC’s is the loss that comes from multiplying MC’s. The reason is, no one talks about this pain. The focus is on the mission, the excitement, the moving forward, new leaders developed, new spaces for people to get connected, disciples are being made, people are following Jesus. This is all exciting and should be the focus. But multiplying hurts. Friendships change. People who you used to be with, you no longer see. We’ve been doing MC’s for 3 years now and have launched 4 MC’s out of ours in that time. It is exciting and it hurts. If your MC multiplies, you must create relationships outside of your MC that won’t change regardless of how many times your MC does. This has also caused me to be slower about pushing leaders to start MC’s.

A leader must also prepare other leaders for this. Multiplying is the goal and is exciting, but can also hurt. A strong, healthy MC should multiply out a new one once ever 12-18 months. I think this is a good ratio because it doubles your MC’s each year, but also keeps your leaders sane and relationships close.

I realize unlike the other posts in this series, this one ends on a downer, but stay tuned. The next post is how to celebrate what God is doing in MC’s.

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Made Right with God


All of us want to be happy. We all want to know that we meet the standard that is set. What happens though, when you feel like you don’t measure up?

If you are a follower of Jesus, you know that the grace of God saves you. There is nothing you can do to earn it. Yet, once you begin following Jesus, so much of your time is spent earning more of God’s love and favor.

The truth is, you can’t do anything to get any more of God’s love and approval and grace than He has already given you. 

But what if, you want to be made right with God? What happens when you discover you are broken and you can’t fix yourself? How are you made right with God? How do you stay right with God? Do you do something? Work harder? Be better? Clean yourself up?

Sunday, as we continue our series Changewe’re going to look at Galatians 2:15 – 21 and what is a paradox of Christianity: you are forgiven by grace, you are sustained in your relationship with God through His grace and you do not nothing to attain this grace. It is freely given to you.

About this passage, Martin Luther said this:

This is the truth of the gospel. It is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consisteth. Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.’ In other places he refers to it as the ‘chief’, the ‘chiefest’ and ‘the most principal and special article of Christian doctrine’, for it is this doctrine ‘which maketh true Christians indeed’. He adds: ‘if the article of justification be once lost, then is all true Christian doctrine lost.’

This is by far, one of the most crucial passages in the entire book of Galatians, and a truth, if we miss, we will miss out on the life God calls us to live. 

If you or someone you know has a hard time believing that God can forgive them, that they don’t have to earn God’s love or that will continue to forgive them and work in their life, this is a great week to bring them to Revolution.

Remember, we meet at 10am on Sunday mornings at 8300 E Speedway Blvd.

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What You’re Fighting About Isn’t What You’re Angry About

Think about the last fight you had with someone. It might be your spouse, child, a boss, employee. If you are a pastor, think about the last angry person you met with and the reason they gave for their anger and why they are leaving your church.

Now, the thing you were fighting about, the reason someone gave for leaving your church, that isn’t what they are angry about, that isn’t what the argument was about. 

I remember sitting in a counseling class in college. It was incredibly boring and then in a moment of God’s providence, I paid attention towards the end of one class and my teacher said this, “When life is stressful, when life is out of control, when people don’t know what to do, they take their anger out on the closest authority figure in their life. If you are a pastor, that will often be you.”

For 12 years as a pastor, this has proven to be true on a weekly basis.

Here’s a way to know if this is happening to you: does the response match the situation?

Often, fights happen in marriage and are started because of a crying child, something not being put away, something not getting done, a miscommunication and then…boom.

The fight isn’t about the child, something being left out or something not getting done. It is about the underlying issue that it represents. It is about being able to trust the other person, count on them.

What couples do, is fight about the issue at hand. They then continue to have the same fight for years with no resolution. It isn’t until they have a discussion about the actual issue, and only then, will they be able to move forward.

Here’s a church example. “We’re leaving because you didn’t start this ministry that I want.” That isn’t the issue. What is the issue at hand is either a disagreement in vision and where the church is going and/or an unwillingness for this person to follow a leader. They want more power or authority than they have. Or, “We’re leaving because you don’t preach deep enough.” That isn’t the reason. What they are leaving for is without their “deep preaching” they have to take responsibility for their spiritual journey, and, with all this “shallow preaching” going around this church, we have a bunch of unchurched people who don’t know Jesus showing up and they are acting like they don’t know Jesus and that is uncomfortable.

I remember when we first planted Revolution and people were coming and going quickly, which happens in a church plant. I tried to meet with as many people leaving as I could to learn from them and what went wrong. We still do this as often as we can as a church. In each of those meetings, we talked about what frustrated them about Revolution, but 50% of what we talked about at those meetings was their frustration around their job, their spouse or their child who wasn’t growing up like they hoped.

Proving my professor right.

When life is stressful, when life is out of control, when people don’t know what to do, they take their anger out on the closest authority figure in their life. If you are a pastor, that will often be you.

The next time you have an argument with a child or a spouse stop and ask, “Are we really fighting about this? Or is something else driving this?” Are you tired? Run down? When was your last date night? Katie and I argue about the silliest things if we miss a date night.

When someone leaves your church, listen to their complaints and then try to find the heart issue with it and try to discuss that. They will probably still leave your church, but at least you’ll know why they left.