10 Favorite Reads of 2016

Each year I post a list of my favorite books, the ones I would call the best books of the year. To see my list of favorite books from past years, simply click on the numbers: 201220132014 and 2015. For 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.

While most years I have struggled to put this list together, this year there weren’t as many great books or must read books as previous years. I also read fewer books than previous years as I feel like I moved through books at a slower pace. You’ll also notice some books that are a little different than years past. Most of the time I read lots of leadership books. This year, as Katie and I have been doing the three year Leader’s Journey from Crosspoint with Jim Cofield and Rich Blass (the authors of The Relational Soul: Moving from False Self to Deep Connection), I am reading less leadership books and more books on my soul, relational health, family of origin, and understanding my personality. It has been scary and exhilarating. The conversations Katie and I have had have been incredible, but also painful.

This list reflects that.

So, here is the list of my 10 favorite reads from 2016 and why I liked them:

10. Team Genius: The New Science of High-Performing Organizations by Rich Karlgaard Michael S. Malone

This book answered a puzzle I had for three years: What makes the best teams work? The answer lies in the power of a pair. Yes, large teams are important, and even threes work together well, but nothing is stronger than the power of a pair. Incredibly helpful for leaders and church planters.

9. Future Grace: The Purifying Power of the Promises of God by John Piper

Yes, I’m reformed, and no, I had never read Future Grace by John Piper until this year. I know.

If you meet someone who has not read this book or has never read a book by Piper, this is the book to read. It is chock full of gospel goodness and reminders. I probably highlighted more than half of the book. I loved how it is broken up so you can read a chapter a day and be done in a month. It was perfect to read each morning and restore truth into my soul in much needed places.

8. You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K.A. Smith

I love the idea of habits and how they work. This book looks at the spiritual side of habits, which is something that is important in the discussion. Smith also looked at how habits get formed in culture, churches, families and passing on your faith. It was incredibly helpful for Katie and me as we think about not only building habits into our lives, but also into the lives of our kids.

7. Wholeheartedness: Busyness, Exhaustion, and Healing the Divided Self by Chuck DeGroat

I read this book on a plane ride, and it was a punch in the gut. I’ve started to realize in the past year that I am not as fully present in relationships as I should be or would like to be. This book was incredibly helpful in understanding that and how to change it.

6. The Heart of a Servant Leader: Letters from Jack Miller

This was another book that I read like Piper’s, one chapter each morning after reading my Bible. It is a collection of letters from the life of a pastor. There is so much richness in them as he shares advice, pain, prayer requests, loneliness, weariness and joy. This is one of those books that I will re-read on a regular basis. There is so much in this for pastors. I love Miller’s passion for evangelism and missions.

5. The Power of the Other: The startling effect other people have on you, from the boardroom to the bedroom and beyond-and what to do about it by Henry Cloud

This book surprised me in how much I liked it. We often underestimate the power of people in our lives but also the power we have over other people. Cloud looks at the power people have over us and how we react to that, how we handle that in our lives and how we limit that power when it is unhealthy. Incredibly insightful as it relates to family systems and teams.

4. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix by Edwin Friedman

This is part leadership book, part organizational health book and part family systems book. When I got done, I told Katie I will probably have to read this book at least five times to fully grasp everything that Friedman has in it. Incredibly eye opening as to why churches are unhealthy, why families split, why people give so much backlash to leaders and why leaders lead so poorly.

3. Surrender to Love: Discovering the Heart of Christian Spirituality by David Benner

This is one of those books that if you would have told me in 2014 I would not only read it but put it on my list of favorite reads in 2016, I would have laughed. Yet I’ve given out more copies of this book than any other book I’ve read. I’ve bought it for several friends.

Here’s the foundation: Everything in the Christian life goes back to God’s love for you. Yet most of us resist that (even as Christians) and miss out on the power of that love and how that love changes everything.

2. The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile

I’m a huge believer in understanding yourself. Katie and I had to take the enneagram in the Leader’s Journey, and it answered so many questions in our relationship and how we operate. This book is a great companion to taking the test. Cron is hilarious and the spiritual formation insights are really helpful. Once you understand your personality and those around you, you are able to navigate relationships and teamwork in a healthier way. Knowing what it is like to be on the other side of you is crucial.

1. Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing by Andy Crouch

I feel like this book covers what God has been teaching me in the last year. It is has been hard, often painful and uncomfortable. I’m an eight on the enneagram (see book #2) and we don’t do feelings or gray areas, so this book has been helpful. If you are a leader (and you are like me), this is a book you need to read.

5 Books for Leaders to Read this Month

I’m often asked about books I’m reading or enjoying. I used to write long book reviews for books, but that takes a long time and I don’t like reading long book reviews. I want to know what it is about and if someone liked it.

So, if you’re looking for a book to read next, here are five you might want to consider:

book

The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matterss by Sinclair Ferguson

If you are like me, you have no idea what the marrow controversy is and why it matters. I didn’t before reading this book, but wow, it is packed with good gospel truths. I probably highlighted half of this book and got so much out of it as it relates to understanding God’s grace, being set free from legalism and performance based Christianity.

This is a heady book, so be ready. But it is incredibly worth reading.

generational-iq_0Generational IQ: Christianity Isn’t Dying, Millennials Aren’t the Problem, and the Future is Bright by Hadyn Shaw

If you listen to experts and statisticians, you will hear someone say, “The church is dying. Millenials aren’t going to church.” Are churches dying? Some are. Are millenials going to church? Some are.

This book was helpful on two levels. One, as a pastor, this is a great book to understand how different people in your church relate to each other and to God. Depending on when someone was born has an enormous influence on how they relate to God, how they worship, and how they view the Bible and community.

Two, as a parent it is easy to think my child will connect to God the way that I do. Shaw walks through multiple ways for parents to understand why their child is so different from them when it comes to spirituality.

If you have a millenial child or want to reach millenials, this is an incredibly helpful book.

bookYou Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K.A. Smith

I love the idea of habits and how people make changes that stick. This book took a totally different approach on that topic by looking through the lens of the stories we tell ourselves, the stories we pick up from the world around us and how those stories make an impact on our life and spiritual habits. For parents, there is a lot in this book about how to pass your faith on to your child.

bookAmerican Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard

This one is obviously different than all the others, but really interesting.

Let me make a confession first. It is really popular right now to read history books. I love history and I try, but I never make it past page 50. This one was different.

Woodard looks at the idea that America was never a united nation, that we were settled by 11 different nations in different regions. The ones who settled New England or the Deep South still impact how the people and cultures work in those areas, how they handle business, think about government and laws, etc.

On a personal note, this book also helped me to see why some people move to Arizona and don’t stay, and also about 28 states I never want to live in.

bookThe Power of the Other: The startling effect other people have on you, from the boardroom to the bedroom and beyond-and what to do about it by Henry Cloud

This one is a book I will re-read. The ideas in this book are so powerful. We often underestimate the power others can have on us and the power we can have on other people.

Cloud walks through what healthy relationships and healthy attachment looks like, what prevents you from it, and how some relationships you have you need to end or put boundaries around.

He also helps you to see if you are creating unhealthy relationships in your world. Bill Hybels said at this year’s leadership summit that this was the best book he read all year.

Happy reading!

The Power of the Other: The startling effect other people have on you, from the boardroom to the bedroom and beyond-and what to do about it

This one is a book I will re-read. The ideas in this book are so powerful. We often underestimate the power others can have on us and the power we can have on other people.

Cloud walks through what healthy relationships and healthy attachment looks like, what prevents you from it, and how some relationships you have you need to end or put boundaries around.

He also helps you to see if you are creating unhealthy relationships in your world. Bill Hybels said at this year’s leadership summit that this was the best book he read all year.

Generational IQ: Christianity Isn’t Dying, Millennials Aren’t the Problem, and the Future is Bright

If you listen to experts and statisticians, you will hear someone say, “The church is dying. Millenials aren’t going to church.” Are churches dying? Some are. Are millenials going to church? Some are.

This book was helpful on two levels. One, as a pastor, this is a great book to understand how different people in your church relate to each other and to God. Depending on when someone was born has an enormous influence on how they relate to God, how they worship, and how they view the Bible and community.

Two, as a parent it is easy to think my child will connect to God the way that I do. Shaw walks through multiple ways for parents to understand why their child is so different from them when it comes to spirituality.

If you have a millenial child or want to reach millenials, this is an incredibly helpful book.

5 Books Every Pastor & Church Staff Should Read

The old adage “leaders are readers” is true. The same goes for a leadership team or staff team at a church. Yet with so many books on the market, it is hard to know which ones to read as a team and which ones will be helpful. When I’m asked about books we have read at Revolution or ones I think are particularly helpful for pastors and church planters, I find myself going back to the same ones.

the advantage

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business by Patrick Lencioni

The Advantage is all of Lencioni’s books wrapped up into one. I think it is one of the most thorough and helpful books for a leader to read. The discussions around clarity and organizational health are something most churches struggle with, and if they got it right it would not only help take their churches to new levels, but it would also help them reach more people.

book

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t by Jim Collins

If you run in leadership circles, you have probably read Good to Great, but the wisdom in it seems incredibly timeless. I have read through this book multiple times, and the images that he uses to get his point across are incredibly helpful.

chess not checkers

Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game by Mark Miller

This book was a game changer for me. This is a book that explains what happens in a church at each growth barrier without the church or its leaders knowing. If you are facing a growth barrier or can’t figure out why something isn’t working, start with this book.

book

Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow by Carey Nieuwhof

Carey’s book helps you as a leader and a team have conversations you need to have about why your church isn’t growing, why people don’t want to serve, why the next generation isn’t that interested in the gospel and what to do about it.

teams that thrive

Teams That Thrive: Five Disciplines of Collaborative Church Leadership by Warren Bird & Ryan Hartwig

This is the best book on teams in a church. The authors lay out what a healthy team looks like, what they do, how they operate and how to move your team to becoming a team that thrives.

How we Distort the Gospel & God’s Love for Us

gospel

I shared this on Sunday in my sermon on Romans 5:3 – 11 from The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters by Sinclair Ferguson:

This comes to expression when the gospel is preached in these terms: God loves you because Christ died for you!

How do those words distort the gospel? They imply that the death of Christ is the reason for the love of God for me.

By contrast the Scriptures affirm that the love of God for us is the reason for the death of Christ. That is the emphasis of John 3:16. God (i.e. the Father, since here “God” is the antecedent of “his…Son”) so loved the world that he gave his Son for us. The Son does not need to do anything to persuade the Father to love us; he already does!

The subtle danger here should be obvious: if we speak of the cross of Christ as the cause of the love of the Father, we imply that behind the cross and apart from it he may not actually love us at all. He needs to be “paid” a ransom price in order to love us. But if it has required the death of Christ to persuade him to love us (“Father, if I die, will you begin to love them?”), how can we ever be sure the Father himself loves us – “deep down” with an everlasting love? True, the Father does not love us because we are sinners; but he does love us even though we are sinners. He loved us before Christ died for us. It is because he loves us that Christ died for us!

How to Simplify Your Life

I just finished reading Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul by Bill Hybels, and it is a really helpful book.

What’s it about?

When we spend our lives doing things that keep us busy but don’t really matter, we sacrifice the things that do.

Key Takeaway

The chapter on friendships was incredibly helpful to me personally. As our world becomes more transient, it seems like people are moving in and out of my family on a regular basis. Whether they finish school, get a job in a new city, move back to where their family lives or get deployed, people move and relationships change. This is hard and painful. I really appreciated the way he talked about seasonal friends (those who will be in our lives for a season) and lifelong friends. We want lifelong friends but will have more seasonal friends, and that’s okay, but we need to know how to walk through it.

Some things that stood out

  • Simplified living is about more than doing less. It’s being who God called us to be, with a wholehearted, single-minded focus. It’s walking away from innumerable lesser opportunities in favor of the few to which we’ve been called and for which we’ve been created. It’s a lifestyle that allows us, when our heads hit the pillow at night, to reflect with gratitude that our day was well invested and the varied responsibilities of our lives are in order.
  • What sorts of things fill your bucket? What refuels you? What activities or engagements restore your energy levels? What do you need to do to start pouring new streams of replenishment into your badly depleted life? What relationships inspire you? What do you read that elevates your perspective? What in your life is actually a bucket-filler for you?
  • Read any study on the topic of what adds energy and vitality to your life, and you’ll find that most experts agree: Exercise and proper rest patterns give about a 20 percent energy increase in an average day, average week, average month.
  • You are the boss of your schedule. It’s your responsibility to keep command of your calendar—and you must in order to simplify your life.
  • Your calendar is more than merely an organizer for what needs to get done; it’s the primary tool for helping you become who you want to become.
  • My schedule is far less about what I want to get done and far more about who I want to become.

My Favorite Books of 2015

books

Each year, I post a list of my favorite books, the ones I would call the best books of the year. To see my list of favorite books from past years, simply click on the numbers: 20092010201120122013 and 2014. 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 2015, I only needed to read it in 2015. As always, this list was hard to narrow down, but here are the top 15 books of 2015:

15. Teams That Thrive: Five Disciplines of Collaborative Church Leadership by Ryan Hartwig & Warren Bird

Summary: Teams that Thrive looks at how a leadership team can move to the next level and really make an impact. This was an incredibly insightful book for the leadership team at the church I lead.

Best Quote: “The five Cs of thriving teams: Clear. Does the team’s purpose paint a clear picture of value? Compelling. Do team members view the purpose as consequential? Does it address something that truly matters, drawing people into it? Challenging. To accomplish the purpose, is each member of the team required to contribute in a meaningful and interdependent way? Calling-oriented. Does accomplishing the purpose help members accomplish God’s calling on their lives and pursue their goals? Consistently held. Do the members of a group truly know the group’s purpose and pursue it with fervor?”

14. Taking People with You: The Only Way to Make Big Things Happen by David Novak

Summary: Yum! Brands CEO David Novak shows that in order to lead a great organization of any size you need to get your people aligned, enthusiastic, and focused relentlessly on the mission.

Best Quote: “You have to begin by asking yourself three big questions that will drive your approach to leadership and allow you to take people with you. They are: 1.) What’s the single biggest thing you can imagine that will grow your business or change your life? 2.) Who do you need to affect, influence, or take with you to be successful? 3.) What perceptions, habits, or beliefs of this target audience do you need to build, change, or reinforce to reach your goal?”

13. Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time by Jeffrey Pfeffer

Summary: Leadership BS takes a look at the leadership industry, showing why it’s failing and how it might be remade. Pfeffer looks at the usual prescriptions for leaders to be honest, authentic, and modest, tell the truth, build trust, and take care of others and asks if these prescriptions are truths or myths about leadership.

Best Quote: “Being authentic is pretty much the opposite of what leaders must do. Leaders do not need to be true to themselves. Rather, leaders need to be true to what the situation and what those around them want and need from them. And often what others want and need is the reassurance that things will work out and the confidence that they are on the right track.”

12. How Google Works by Eric Schmidt & Jonathan Rosenberg

Summary: An inside look at Google, how it works, what they’ve learned and how they continue to grow and get better.

Best Quote: “Start by asking what could be true in five years. Larry Page often says that the job of a CEO is not only to think about the core business, but also the future; most companies fail because they get too comfortable doing what they have always done, making only incremental changes. And that is especially fatal today, when technology-driven change is rampant. So the question to ask isn’t what will be true, but what could be true.”

11. Gaining By Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches that Send by J.D. Greear

Summary: Greear looks at how we are not only called to send people out to plant churches, but also to train them as leaders to be involved in our cities, governments, businesses and the arts. The best churches are those that send.

Best Quote: “I want to suggest four reasons why the future of Christianity belongs to churches that send, and why those of us who want to see the world reached will be more committed to raising up and sending out than we are to gathering and counting. Those four reasons are: 1. Increasingly, in a “post-Christian” society, unbelievers will simply not make their way into our churches, no matter how “attractive” we make them. 2. Multiplication beats out addition, every time. 3. The presence of God accompanies those who send. 4. Jesus’ promises of “greatness” in the church are always related to sending.”

10. Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller

Summary: All that Tim Keller thinks on preaching. Enough said.

Best Quote: “What, then, is good preaching? Let me pull all these ideas together into a single description. It is “proclaim[ing]. . . . the testimony of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1)—preaching biblically, engaging with the authoritative text. This means preaching the Word and not your opinion. When we preach the Scriptures we are speaking “the very words of God” (1 Peter 4:11). You need to make clear the meaning of the text in its context—both in its historical time and within the whole of Scripture. This task of serving the Word is exposition, which is to draw out the message of the passage with faithfulness and insight and with a view to the rest of biblical teaching, so as not to “expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another.” It is also proclaiming to “both Jews and Greeks” (1 Corinthians 1:24)—preaching compellingly, engaging the culture, and touching hearts. This means not merely informing the mind but also capturing the hearer’s interest and imagination and persuading her toward repentance and action. A good sermon is not like a club that beats upon the will but like a sword that cuts to the heart (Acts 2:37). At its best it pierces to our very foundations, analyzing and revealing us to ourselves (Hebrews 4:12). It must build on Bible exposition, for people have not understood a text unless they see how it bears on their lives. Helping people see this is the task of application, and it is much more complicated than is usually recognized.”

9. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

Summary: How to be more organized, productive and get the right things done to lower your stress level.

Best Quote: “In training and coaching many thousands of people, I have found that lack of time is not the major issue for them (though they may think it is); the real problem is a lack of clarity and definition about what a project really is, and what associated next-action steps are required. Clarifying things on the front end, when they first appear on the radar, rather than on the back end, after trouble has developed, allows people to reap the benefits of managing action…Many people try to get organized but make the mistake of doing it with incomplete batches of stuff. You can’t organize what’s incoming—you can only capture it and process it. Instead, you organize the actions you’ll need to take based on the decisions you’ve made about what needs to be done.”

8. H3 Leadership: Be Humble. Stay Hungry. Always Hustle. by Brad Lomenick

Summary: Lomenick categorizes 20 essential leadership habits organized into three distinct filters he calls “the 3 Hs”: Humble (Who am I?), Hungry (Where do I want to go?) and Hustle (How will I get there?).

Best Quote: “Who you are is not what you do. What you do is not who you are. Identity is unchanging. Being comes before doing. Who you are determines what you do.”

7. The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster: Why Now Is the Time to #Join the Ride by Darren Hardy

Summary: This book looks at the roller coaster entrepreneurs go through. The applications of this book to church planters is obvious and incredibly helpful.

Best Quote: “The only constraint of a company’s growth and potential is the owner’s ambition. I am the constraint. The market, the opportunity, everything is there. It’s up to me to set the pace, clear the obstacles, get the resources, and create the conversations to grow the company faster. As CEO, the most important thing I manage is myself. Do that right, and everything else falls into place.”

6. Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game by Mark Miller

Summary: Written in the style of a fable, this book looks at how a company/church grows the leadership and systems need to change as it grows, but often the last people to realize it are the leaders.

Best Quote: “Most small businesses can be successful with a checkers mindset. That’s actually the game you play when an organization is in start-up mode. The leader does virtually everything in the beginning. That’s checkers. Then, if you grow, you begin to add staff. Many leaders see these additional people as interchangeable pieces, nothing more than hired hands, no need for specialists. Each piece is capable of the same limited moves. That’s checkers. In the beginning the game is simple. That’s checkers. You react, you make decisions, the pace is frenetic—you’re playing checkers. And, it works … for a while. You can win in business by playing checkers until someone sneaks in one night after you’ve closed for the day and flips the board. The game changes, and you don’t even know it.”

5. Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy by Donald Miller

Summary: Miller looks at what keeps us from getting close to people, trusting them and moving past our fears of relationships and intimacy.

Best Quote: “Here’s something I heard recently: Men move toward whatever makes them feel competent.” As soon as I heard that I knew it was true. Every man I know migrates toward something that makes him feel powerful and in control. If it’s work, he puts in more hours, if it’s sports he’s constantly at the gym. I only bring this up because few men I know feel competent in intimate relationships, which might be one of the reasons they don’t sit around talking about how well they do or don’t get along with the people they love.”

4. Yawning at Tigers: You Can’t Tame God, So Stop Trying by Drew Dyck

Summary: Many people have lost a reverence and an awe for God and his power. This book helps you to recapture who God is, how powerful He is, how in control He is and how that brings freedom to your life.

Best Quote: “Many of us say we want to experience God, but we don’t look for his majesty. We travel life’s paths with our heads down, focused on the next step with our careers or families or retirement plans. But we don’t really expect God to show up with divine wonder…Unfortunately, in our efforts to make the Bible interesting and relevant, we try to normalize God. We become experts at taking something lofty, so unfathomable and incomprehensible, and dragging it down to the lowest shelf. We fail to account for the fact that God is neither completely knowable nor remotely manageable. Here’s the beautiful irony: making God strange actually enables us to know him more. Once we have marveled at his magnitude and mystery, we are able to achieve the deep intimacy that grows out of a true appreciation for who God is. Instead of treating him as an equal, we approach him with reverent awe. Only when we’ve been awestruck by his majesty can we be overwhelmed by his love.”

3. Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City by Tim Keller

Summary: Like Preaching, this is all that Keller knows, believes and how he leads his church. So much wisdom packed into this book. He helps leaders lead their churches through creating a theological vision.

Best Quote: “What is a theological vision? It is a faithful restatement of the gospel with rich implications for life, ministry, and mission in a type of culture at a moment in history. A theological vision is a vision for what you are going to do with your doctrine in a particular time and place.”

2. Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth by Samuel Chand

Summary: This book looks at the reality that the only way for you to reach your potential as a leader, for your church or company to reach its potential, you must raise your threshold for pain.

Best Quote: “My advice for a pastor who faces any kind of crisis is to give yourself one day to moan, whine, and feel sorry for yourself. Just one day . . . then get up, ask God for direction, and take your people where He leads you. Leaders can’t afford to collapse for more than a day. They then have to seek solutions. We don’t have the luxury to be paralyzed by anxiety and discouragement. We have an obligation to trust God for a workable solution and a plan of action. Begin with the positive assumption that God always has a plan. The price is the figurative blood of leadership: having your sanity or integrity questioned, the uncertainty of taking bold risks, the pain of hard conversations and replacing people (many of whom are friends) who no longer fit the larger scope of responsibilities, and the strain of being publicly positive while dealing with the myriad of private pains of change.”

1. The Imperfect Pastor: Discovering Joy in Our Limitations through a Daily Apprenticeship with Jesus by Zach Eswine

Summary: A look at how God does his best work through broken and flawed humans, not perfect ones.

Best Quote: “To the important pastor doing large and famous things speedily, the brokenness of people actually feels like an intrusion keeping us from getting our important work for God done. Our desire for greatness in ministry isn’t the problem. Our problem rises from how the haste of doing large things, famously and as fast as we can, is reshaping our definition of what a great thing is. Desire greatness, dear pastor! But bend your definition of greatness to the one Jesus gives us. At minimum we must begin to take a stand on this one important fact: obscurity and greatness are not opposites. It is possible for ministry leaders to desire greatness in ways no different from anyone, anywhere in our culture. Attaching Jesus’s name to these desires doesn’t change the fact that they look just like the cravings of the world.”

What Others are Saying about Breathing Room

Breathing-Room

My book Breathing Room: Stressing Less & Living More came out yesterday, and the response so far has been overwhelming and encouraging.

My hope is that this book helps people to stop settling for a life that is tired, busy, in debt, holding on to past hurt and in many cases settling in life, and instead they would live the life that God calls them to. The life that God has for them. One that is not tired but full of life. One that is not busy but purposeful and intentional. One that is not in debt but controlling their money. And instead of allowing their past to control them, they are able to see their past redeemed to move forward into a new future.

I wanted to share what some other leaders and authors had to say about the book:

“You can’t underestimate how critical mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health – or as Josh calls it, Breathing Room – is in the success of a leader. Josh gives an honest account of what led him to dramatically change his life, busts the life-balance myth, and provides practical steps to help others turn that same corner.  I’ve been there too, and finding “breathing room” can change everything.” –Carey Nieuwhof, Lead Pastor, Connexus Church

“While there may be no such thing as a stress-free life, the stress-dominated life has almost become the norm in our modern-day culture. In his new book Breathing Room, Josh Reich exposes the most common sources of crippling stress and lays out a game plan for conquering the beast that so easily robs our joy and sabotages our walk with Jesus.” –Larry Osborne, author and pastor, North Coast Church

“Josh Reich’s book Breathing Room is truly a breathe of fresh air.  You will appreciate Josh’s authenticity and vulnerability as he shares his personal journey to try to find breathing room in his own life.  This is the kind of book that is hard to pick up because you know you are going to be challenged to make life-altering changes, but it will be hard to put down because you know those changes are going to lead you to discovering the abundant life that Jesus desires for all of us.” Brian Bloye, senior pastor, West Ridge Church, co-author, It’s Personal: Surviving and Thriving on the Journey of Church Planting

“In Breathing Room, Josh Reich opens up with us about his journey of recovery from addiction and compulsions that kept him from living the abundant life that Jesus has in mind for us. All of us can identify with his struggles. Hopefully some of us can also learn from his many practical suggestions and insights.” -Reggie McNeal, author, A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual LeadersMissional Leadership Specialist, Leadership Network

“Ministry is hard work. It’s spiritually draining, emotionally taxing, and intellectually exhausting. Josh opens his heart and shares the pain most leaders carry but reveal to no one. It becomes the secret burden we endure until something breaks. Breathing Room will reveal the warning signs that we’re headed towards a crash, but gives us hope that healthy living is possible for those of us in church work.” –Bob Franquiz, Senior Pastor, Calvary Fellowship, Miramar, FL; Founder, Church Ninja

“Josh Reich is a man of influence, integrity, and a leader of leaders. I have walked along side Josh and personally watched him live out what he preaches. I commend to you Breathing Room and encourage you to learn from Josh’s wise words.” -Brian Howard, Acts 29 West Network Director, Executive Director of Context Coaching Inc.

I hope Breathing Room: Stressing Less & Living More helps you, and I’d love to hear your story of how you change through reading the book and live the life of meaning that God has for you after you do.

9 Lessons from “Teams that Thrive”

Our staff at Revolution Church recently worked through Teams That Thrive: Five Disciplines of Collaborative Church Leadership, and it completely changed how we operate as a church. Granted it wasn’t just this one book, but a combination of the timing in our church and this book.

Here are 9 lessons leaders can learn from Teams That Thrive:

1. Andy Stanley said, “If you don’t know why it’s working, when it’s working, you won’t know how to fix it when it breaks.” While not a learning from the authors, it is still crucial for churches and their teams. Many churches don’t know what is and isn’t working. They have ideas, feelings, thoughts, premonitions, gut feelings. But what is actually working? Do you have data for that? Do you know why something did or did not I aII work?

2. The best teams make decisions as a group. The best teams both make decisions and “own” the implementation. Many teams operate as a place for the lead pastor to share ideas and get “buy in” because no one wants to contradict him and then move forward. Or decisions are made that are passed down by some hidden board, and then no one owns it. A team should be a place of robust discussion that covers every possible scenario, and then everyone owns the final product.

3. For good or bad, leadership teams shape the culture, direct the mission, establish the vision and model the values of your church. Put another way: Great leadership teams lead great churches, and mediocre leadership teams lead mediocre churches. This is just a simple truth. The healthier the church, the greater the teams. There is no shortcut to this and no way around it.

4. When we asked team members what made their team great, the responses almost always pointed to their communication practices. Churches are notoriously bad at communication. Silos exist, people do their own thing. The reason is simple: a lot has to get done, and communicating takes time. It can slow things down, or you might be told not to do something.

5. Many successful lead pastors make poor team leaders. They are gifted to preach, cast vision and think strategically, but they are poorly equipped to lead teams. For our church, I lead the elder team and oversee the whole staff team, but I don’t lead our lead team meetings. Our executive pastor leads most of the meetings that I am in. Why? He’s better at it.

6. Focus on purpose, the invisible leader of your team. This was easily one of the biggest a-ha moments in the book. What is the purpose of the team? Why is this team meeting? If you can’t answer these questions, you are wasting time.

7. Top teams were smaller than underperforming teams. The lead team I’m on right now is the smallest team I’ve ever been on. I think back to the other teams I was on, and they had 7 – 10 people on them. Not everyone got heard, stuff was missed and we wasted a lot of time. Smaller simply is better.

8. Top teams do more decision making and leadership coordinating. While this is the purpose of the team at the top, it determines who should be on it. Most churches draw a circle at the top of the org chart and put the people in that circle on the leadership team. To lead a church, you need to be able to see the whole field, not just your area. You need to be able to make strong decisions, and not everyone is good at that. You need to be able to handle details, and again, not everyone is good at that. This goes along with #5 and who should lead which teams, which meetings, etc. It isn’t always the lead pastor.

9. Your leadership team is the primary determinant of the health, effectiveness and impact of your church. This is a leadership truth that every leader knows but does not want to admit when faced with an unhealthy church or a church that is not meeting its fullest potential.

Our church has gone through quite the transition in the last year because of this book and others. While at times it has been slow, it has been hard and painful for our team (and me as I’ve had to let go of quite a bit), it has made a stronger, healthier team and allowed leaders to lead.

I can’t recommend this book enough if you are a pastor or lead something. This is the best book on teams in a church setting.