Book Reviews

Top 10 Books for 2016

In this year end podcast, Gene and Kelly each discuss the top 5 books they read in 2016. Here is the list of 10 books. Click on the title of the book and order your copy today.

  1. THE 4 DISCIPLINES OF EXECUTION by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling 1. Focus on the wildly important. 2. Act on the lead measures. 3. Keep a compelling scoreboard. 4. Create a cadence of accountability.

  2. INSTINCT by TD Jakes Giraffes eat from tree tops and rarely drop their heads for anything but water. Cousins to the Camels, if they dropped their heads more often they would lose their balance. They don’t get their nourishment on grass level with turtles. They learn to avoid the clamour of what’s happening at ground level.  In leadership it’s best to eat from higher thoughts than lower ones. Leaders with a limited level of sight can’t be expected to see what leaders with a higher level of sight gain in perspective and wisdom.  Our opinions and vision is usually based on our perspective.Whatever stimulates us gives us energy and helps us be our best. Feed on what feeds your dream. We must live to unpack our inventory of uniqueness.

  3. THE SPIRIT CONTEMPORARY LIFE by Leon FontaineThe thing to realize as you pray for people is that when Holy Spirit works, it’s not really about you. It’s not about your ability or lack thereof. The more you realize that, the more free you will feel to step into other’s lives to help, and the more you will communicate and act in a way that effectively reaches others.Being Spirit Contemporary isn’t hard. All you really need is to do two things: respect people and follow Holy Spirit’s lead.You can be Spirit Contemporary and change the wrapper (how you share the message) while leaving the gift (Jesus) intact.Being Spirit Contemporary isn’t about pleasing people so they will like you. It’s about being so confident, strong, and secure in your identity as a child of God that people notice the difference in your life and are attracted to you as you direct them toward Jesus.

  4. UNTHINK by Eric Wahl An “artist” Is anyone who challenges the conventional wisdom and inspires change that creates new channels of problem solving and innovating.5 things that help us rediscover our creative genius: 1.  Curiosity - As a child you had two things on your agenda: exploration and creation.  2.  Discovery - is the Holy Grail of childhood 3.  Conviction - the sooner we start working with the conviction that we can be creative, the sooner we recapture our sense of wonder. Don’t live wearing the mask of other’s  the convictions. Ask yourself: What makes me come alive? People unite behind people of conviction. 4.  Acceleration - Jack Welch said, “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” 5. Spontaneity -  Spontaneity inspires. Spontaneity is the bridge to mystery…and mystery opens our eyes to new possibilities.  Spontaneity counterbalances your left brain’s cry for safety and predictability. Our left brain tells us that our days are easiest when we know what to expect.  But our right brain reminds us that our days are inspiring only when we venture into the unknown.

  5. THE IDEAL TEAM PLAYER by Patrick Lencioni  Ideal team players possess adequate measures of humility, hunger, and people smarts. They have little ego when it comes to needing attention or credit for their contributions, and they are comfortable sharing their accolades or even occasionally missing out on them. Ideal team players work with a sense of energy, passion, and personal responsibility, taking on whatever they possibly can for the good of the team. Finally, they say and do the right things to help teammates feel appreciated, understood, and included, even when difficult situations arise that require tough love.

  6. TALK LIKE TED by Carmine Gallo    “The great truths of the world have often been couched in fascinating stories.” ~ Dale CarnegieThe ability to tell a personal story is the essential trait of an authentic leader. Make it personal.  Take the audience on a journey. If you want to be quoted, tell a story. An audience wants someone or something to cheer for. They want to be inspired. Captivate their imagination with a story. We can only reach minds if we first touch hearts.

  7. UNQUALIFIED by Steven Furtick    This is a book about understanding your identity in light of who God us. It’s a book about coming to terms with the good, the bad, and the unmentionable in your life and learning to let God use you.

  8. THE WRIGHT BROTHERS by David McCullough   The Wright Brothers believed that if they could figure out this flying machine, it would change the world, they imagined that it would benefit everyone else if they were successful. It was the Wright Brothers passion that took them where no one had ever gone.

  9. THROUGH THE EYES OF A LION by Levi Lusko    The best book I’ve read on how to handle grief. The story of Pastor Levi and Jenny and the loss of their young daughter Lenya 4 years ago and how they learned to anchor their faith in God despite a devastating tragedy.

  10. FAILING FORWARD by John Maxwell“The difference between average people and achievers is their perception and response to failure.”

FAILING BACKWARD Blame others Repeat the same mistakes Expect never to fail again Expect to continually fail Accept tradition blindly Limit themselves by their past mistakes Think to themselves:  “I’m a failure” Quitting

FAILING FORWARD Take responsibility Learn from each mistake Know failure is part of a process Maintain a positive attitude Challenge outdated assumptions Take new risks Believe something didn’t work Persevering

No matter how difficult your problems are, the key to overcoming them is not changing your circumstances, but changing yourself.



The 30 Books Every Pastor Should Read


I love to read! I try to maintain a 1-book per week pace, and because of that, I am often asked "what's the best book you've read lately?" So here you go! Here's a list of the 30 most influential books I've read to date that have helped me as a pastor and a leader. If you click on the title of the book that interests you it will take you directly to where you can order a copy of your own. Remember, leaders are readers. Enjoy!

My top 30 in alphabetical order:

  1. 7 Practices of Effective Ministry by Andy Stanley
  2. 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell
  3. Axiom: Powerful Leadership Proverbs by Bill Hybels
  4. Becoming a Coaching Leader: The Proven System for Building Your Own Team of Champions by Daniel Harkavy
  5. Church Planting: God's Plan for Transformation by George Hill
  6. Communicating for a Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication by Andy Stanley
  7. Covenant Relationships by George Hill
  8. Cracking Your Church's Culture Code: Seven Keys to Unleashing Vision and Inspiration by Dr. Sam Chand
  9. Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend by Andy Stanley
  10. Goals!: How to Get Everything You Want -- Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible by Brian Tracey
  11. Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth by Dr. Sam Chand
  12. Living Your Strengths: Discover Your God-Given Talents and Inspire Your Community by Donald Clifton
  13. No Perfect People Allowed: Creating a Come-as-You-Are Culture in the Church by John Burke
  14. The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Timothy Keller
  15. Passing the Leadership Baton: A Winning Transition Plan for Your Ministry by Tom Mullins
  16. Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren
  17. Simple Church: Returning to God's Process for Making Disciples by Thom Rainer & Eric Geiger
  18. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
  19. Sticky Teams: Keeping Your Leadership Team And Staff On The Same Page by Larry Osborne
  20. Surprising Insights From The Unchurched And Proven Ways To Reach Them by Thom Rainer
  21. The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential by John Maxwell
  22. The Big Idea: Aligning the Ministries of Your Church through Creative Collaboration by Dave Ferguson
  23. The Leader Who Had No Title: A Modern Fable on Real Success in Business and in Life by Robin Sharma
  24. The Mentor Leader: Secrets to Building People and Teams That Win Consistently by Tony Dungy
  25. One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey by Ken Blanchard
  26. The Richest Man Who Ever Lived: King Solomon's Secrets to Success, Wealth, and Happiness by Stephen K. Scott
  27. Today Matters: 12 Daily Practices to Guarantee Tomorrows Success by John Maxwell
  28. Visioneering: God's Blueprint for Developing and Maintaining Vision by Andy Stanley
  29. Volunteer Revolution by Bill Hybels
  30. Winning on Purpose: How to Organize Congregations to Succeed in Their Mission by John Kaiser

The Top 5 Books I Read in 2013

Well, today in my home town, we are experiencing a "snow day." Over the last 24 hours we have had three or four feet of snow dumped on us and therefore it has become nearly impossible to drive anywhere. So, instead of going to the office today, I am stuck at home. This has given me some time to reflect on this last year and in particular on some of the amazing books I've read and the impact they've had on me in 2013. Here is a list of the top 5 books I read in 2013:

1. GREATER by STEVEN FURTICK51Ie-DS2stL._SL75_This book is a fantastic study on the life of the prophet Elisha. Steven Furtick does a masterful job of making the life of the old prophet come alive while at the same time making the ancient story relevant to the call on each of our lives. If you are needing to clarify your call or need to come alive in your purpose and destiny again, this is a must read! Get a great price and order your own copies today by CLICKING HERE.

2. JESUS IS by JUDAH SMITH41APHFT0zoL._SL75_Jesus Is is an amazing look at our Savior and what Christianity is really about. There are many interpretations of the Bible and of the life of Jesus, and many of them are not flattering, but this book looks at the life of Jesus and His message in a raw and real perspective. This book is a must read for anyone who loves Jesus or is exploring His amazing life and teachings. Get a great price and order your own copies today by CLICKING HERE.

3. CRUCIAL CONFRONTATIONS by KERRY PATTERSON512wXQ+I4bL._SL75_Crucial Confrontations may have been the most impacting book of the year for me and my staff. I have put the teachings of this book into practice nearly everyday since I read it. The results have been amazing! In my opinion, this may be the most important communication book you will ever read. It is must read for every leader! Get a great price and order your own copies today by CLICKING HERE.

4. GREAT BY CHOICE by JIM COLLINS419oM1kcjBL._SL75_Jim Collins book Good to Great was a massive hit and while it took a while, this sequel well worth the wait. With over 10 years of data to back up his finding, Collins delivers a masterpiece for leaders and businesses that explores why some companies survive uncertainty, even chaos and others do not. This is a much read for every business or church leader, because we all have to navigate rough waters from time to time in our unpredictable, fast-moving society. Get a great price and order your own copies today by CLICKING HERE.

5. UNTHINK by ERIK WAHL418WTA5VFuL._SL75_Unthink asks a lot of tough questions for us analytical people. Erik Wahl explores creativity and in particular how to find a balance between logic and artistry. While most of us tend to lean toward one bend or the other, Wahl describes vividly how to bring out the best of both in your daily life and giftedness. This will unlock a side of you you forgot you had and will bring creativity to life in your every day experiences. Get a great price and order your own copies today by CLICKING HERE.

Question: What were some of your favorite books in 2013? Please leave a comment in the Leave a Reply box below. Thank you!

The Top 5 Books I Read in 2012

Here is a list of the top 5 books I read in 2012.

  1. deep&wideDeep & Wide by Andy Stanley.

    Deep & Wide by Andy Stanley may be the most amazing book I have ever read! In a very vulnerable way, Stanley tells of how Northpoint Community Church began as a split from his father's church to become one of America's largest churches. I ordered this book for all of my board and staff and we are using it as a playbook for much of our systems and structures. Truly a must read if you desire to create a church that attracts the unchurched. Get a great price and order your own copies today by CLICKING HERE.

  2. culturebookCracking Your Churches Culture Code by Dr. Sam Chand.

    Culture is more powerful than vision and it even trumps mission. In a very simple and clear way, Dr. Sam Chand describes what culture is and how to create and manage a healthy culture in your church. If you have ever been frustrated when a new vision does not take off or gain the traction you envisioned it would, you have to read this book. Again, this was one that I ordered for my entire staff. Get a great price and order your own copies today by CLICKING HERE.

  3. stickyteamsSticky Teams by Larry Osborne.

    Sticky Teams was recommended to me by my associate Pastor, John Albiston. He recommended it as a great book to deal with the board/staff relationships. And he was right. This book did not disappoint! In a very blunt and honest way, Pastor Larry Osborne delivers clear instruction on how to create unity and focus among a board and staff. We went through this book with our board and it has made a marked difference in our team dynamic and in the quality of our meetings. Every pastor and their board should read this book. Get a great price and order your own copies today by CLICKING HERE.

  4. goalsGoals by Brian Tracey.

    I have yet to read a book that clarified how to set goals, and why they are vital in the life of every human being. This book made a huge personal impact on me. I read it at the beginning of 2012 and as I look back on this past year, I can honestly say it was one of my most productive and effective years ever. And I largely credit the principles I learned and applied from this book. Every one should read this book! Get a great price and order your own copies today by CLICKING HERE.

  5. 5levelsofleadershipThe 5 Levels of Leadership by John Maxwell.

    I have long been a fan of Dr. Maxwell's leadership books, but The 5 Levels of Leadership is by far his best to date! Every leader or aspiring leader should read this book. I ordered this one for each of my staff and we took more than 2 months going through it as a team in our weekly staff meetings. It transformed the way we lead and resulted in a much deeper pool of leaders in our organization. I highly recommend reading this book and going through it with your team. Get a great price and order your own copies today by CLICKING HERE.

Question: What were some of your favorite books in 2012? Please leave a comment in the Leave a Reply box below. Thank you.

The Books I've Ordered for My Staff (and why you should, too)

Every once in a while I will read an amazing book that I feel will greatly benefit our team. I have made a habit of ordering a copy for each of our staff and some of our key volunteers. Often these books speak directly to an issue we are facing and the benefit of reading a book all together is that we can exponentially speed up the process of coming to a consensus solution. Sometimes we will walk through chapters of the book together in our staff meetings allowing for ample discussion time. This is a great way to grow together. I'd highly recommend this as a great team growth strategy.

Here are the books I have ordered for my staff to read this year:

  1. Simple Church by Thom Rainer One of the best books written on the systems of discipleship. This book enabled us to get on the same page when it came to creating a simplified process of discipleship. We were struggling with our hand-offs, especially in getting our new believers to the next step of discipleship. How to create movement was our primary aim and this book delivered a phenomenal plan to do just that.
  2. Goals by Brian Tracey A dream without a goal is simply a fantasy. We definitely had a dream for our church, but our team needed help in setting specific and accurate goals. Tracey's book is the absolute best book I've ever read for goal setting. It helped me immensely in my personal goal setting and I felt that it would translate well to setting more accurate goals as a church. To date, the results have been amazing. We are right on target with our 5 year goal and this has given us tremendous focus and confidence in our corporate decision making.
  3. 5 Levels of Leadership by John Maxwell In my opinion this is the best of Maxwell's writings, and that is saying something! After I read this book, I knew this was one our team could definitely benefit from. We needed more leaders, and we needed our team to be reproducing leaders. In our staff meetings we focused on teaching levels 3 and 4. Level 3 leaders produce results but level 4 leaders produce other leaders. This is what we needed. After reading this book and teaching through these chapters, our team immediately expanded and each of our key leaders began mentoring others.
  4. Cracking Your Church's Culture Code by Samuel Chand This book describes the power of culture. It's more powerful than vision. When I read this book, I felt like it was written just for us. It described step by step the transitions we had been going through. I felt it's main benefit was giving us patience with the time it takes to develop a strong, healthy culture. It also put a language to some of the cultural battles we were continually facing and this helped us more easily identify the problem and therefore solve is more quickly.
  5. Sticky Teams by Larry Osborne I ordered this book for our board. This book does a great job of explaining the often complicated relationship between the board, the staff, and the congregation. Although I feel it comes too strong from a congregational style leadership approach, it does contain great insight and ideas that will help develop strong covenant relationships between the key leaders in your church.

To order these books today, simply click on the title and you will be taken to where you can place your order immediately.

5 Steps to Define Your Life Vision

5 Key Words to Understand How God Helps us Define Our Life Vision:


Process:God’s plan usually unfolds over time.What is He revealing progressively?

 If you are like me, you are impatient for action. We don't want to wait for the plan to unfold, we'd like it now, thank you very much. But God knows that the process is as important, if not more important, than the destination. What we learn in the process allows us to handle what we'll receive in the future. Therefore, we must learn to value the process.

Recommended Book: Put Your Dreams to the Test

  • Purpose:  God wants to accomplish His purposes. Why were you created?

 There are two ways to live, the first way to live is for your own purposes and plans and to ask God to bless your will. The other way to live is to seek God's purpose and plan for your life and to align yourself to His will. Obviously, the best way to live is to live according to God's purposes. After all, He is the one who created you and equipped you with a special set of gifts. Wouldn't it make sense to allow him to decide how you should employ those gifts?

Recommended Book: The Purpose Driven Life

  • Potential: God will use your gifts and passion. Does this goal fit who you are? Every one of us has been created for a purpose. We have a combination of skills and a personality that is unique to us and points to our unique call. It is important to discover what these gifts are and how to apply them to our purpose.

Recommended Book: Living Your Strengths

  • Prioritize: God will ask you to adjust your time and energy. What steps must you take? A dream without a plan is a fantasy and will not come to fruition. It's important to not only have specific goals but also to put specific plans to those goals. What are you willing to do daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly to accomplish your call?

Recommended Books: Goals
 or Today Matters

  • Proceed: God will eventually require you to act. When should you start? I recommend starting today. Start with a plan and then apply daily disciplines to stick to your plan.

Recommended Book: The Richest Man Who Ever Lived

Click on the titles of the books listed above and you will be taken to where you can get more information about the book and will have the ability to order a copy of your own. I highly recommend you read all of these books. They are great tools to help you discover your purpose and will give you the tools to live it out!

Why Wisdom is the Principle Thing

“How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen over silver.”  (Proverbs 16:16)

Imagine that. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived said that he would prefer wisdom over riches. I mean think about it, if Solomon were offered the lottery winnings of $1 million or a gift of wisdom, he would choose wisdom. Would you? Author Steven K. Scott said “Acquiring true wisdom provides a solid foundation from which you can make a lifetime of wise decisions.” King Solomon said in Proverbs 4 that wisdom is the principle thing, or in other words, wisdom is the most important thing to pursue in life. It's more important than money or personal happiness. Do you believe that?

Here are some simple tips on how to get wisdom:

  1. Search for it like you would for a hidden treasure. Invest your time and money into it’s pursuit
. Establish your habits around it.  Invest into a personal growth plan daily, weekly, monthly, yearly. What are you going to do today to grow yourself? What will you do this week? this month? this year? to increase your wisdom? Make a personal growth plan and then discipline yourself to stick to it.Here's an insight into my personal growth plan:

    • Daily I will read a Proverb corresponding with the day. Today is September 22, so I read Proverbs 22. Tomorrow I will read Proverbs 23 and so on. There are 31 Proverbs and this means I can read the entire book of Proverbs every month. This is a guaranteed way to increase in Wisdom.
    • Weekly I will read a book. It is my goal to read a book a week. I do this to increase in knowledge. I read books on church growth, leadership, marriage and relationships, biographies and business principles. It is my responsibility to get knowledge. Therefore I make a predetermined weekly schedule that includes reading time so that I can reach my goal of a book a week.
    • Monthly I meet with a mentor or with someone who has gone further in my field of expertise than I have. I come prepared with questions and seek to learn from their knowledge and experience.
    • Yearly I attend 1 or 2 conferences at churches that are much further ahead than I am. I try to attend a mega-church conference that will expand my thinking and allow me to experience ministry far beyond what is normal for me. This allows me to expand my horizons and enlarge my thinking so that I can dream bigger and glean from their wisdom.
  2. Listen. Go into every situation asking questions instead of giving answers. (Prov. 1:5) The art of asking the right questions is more valuable to a leader than giving answers.
  3. Study the book of Proverbs. (Prov. 4:20-22) I would encourage you to make a habit of reading a Proverb a day. This habit could have a greater impact on your life than any other habit I know of. It will input a level of wisdom into you that will transform your life, your marriage, your parenting, as well as your business and professional life.
  4. Apply your heart to understanding. (Prov. 2:2) You need to follow wisdom with your whole heart, this means constantly renewing your mind!
 Solomon said that the most important advise he could give anyone is to guard your heart! (Prov. 4:23)
 This means valuing heart change and the pursuit of wisdom over behavior modification and people pleasing. It means asking the question "What is the wise thing to do?" before making any decision. It also means disciplining yourself to have the courage to make the wise choice.
  5. Trust and Fear God! (Prov. 1:7; Prov. 9:10; Prov. 3:5-6) Trusting God is the beginning of Wisdom according to King David and King Solomon. Trusting God is different than trusting religion. Trusting God means having faith in Him regardless of my feelings or circumstances. It means I believe His Word holds more weight than my understanding. It means He is God and I am not. This is where wisdom starts. If you don't trust God, you need to.

Here are 3 books that will really help you understand the importance of wisdom and will teach you how to apply it in your everyday life. Read these books, they will change your life and greatly assist you in your decision making skills!

  1. The Richest Man Who Ever Lived by Steven K. Scott
  2. The Principle of the Path by Andy Stanley
  3. Thinking for a Change by John Maxwell

(Click on the title of the book and you will be directed to to order a copy of your own.)

Question: Do you believe Wisdom is the most important thing? Why or Why not? Please leave you comments in the "Leave a Reply" box below. Thank you.

How to Mentor Someone

I believe everyone needs a mentor. We all have blind spots that only a trusted coach can help us see and give us the skills necessary to overcome. Do you wish you had someone who could regularly coach you in your role or even in life? Maybe you have someone in mind that you wish would become your mentor. Or, maybe you're a leader and you see the need to mentor and coach your team and you simply don't know where to begin.

I know for many years, I struggled on both ends of this equation. I was a young pastor and I was desperate for someone to mentor me, but I had no idea who to ask or even how to ask. I assumed that those who I felt could help me the most were too busy with their own ministries. I was too afraid and too insecure to ask for their help.

Then, a few years into my ministry, I realized the need for my team to be coached. I know I should be the one coaching them, but I felt I was too young and too inexperienced to become a mentor.  The problem with this thought is that it kept my team from growing and bottle-necked the growth of our church.

Have you fought these feelings, too? Where do we begin? The wisest man who ever lived once said, "people perish for the lack of knowledge." The way to overcome our fears of being mentored and becoming a mentor is to gain knowledge in the subject. I decided to do just that. I began to read books on the subject and in the process gained an enormous amount of confidence to not only find myself some amazing mentors, but also to begin mentoring my team and many others, as well.

Here are four of the best books I've read on the subject:

(click on the title of the book to go to and order a copy for yourself today)

  1. Becoming a Coaching Leader by Daniel Harkavy
  2. The 5 Levels of Leadership by John C. Maxwell
  3. The Mentor Leader by Tony Dungy
  4. The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey by Ken Blanchard

Question: Are you looking for a mentor? Who do you wish you could mentor you? Leave your comments in the "Leave a Reply" box below.

Top 5 Marriage Books

True transformation comes from a renewed mind. A renewed mind comes from removing the old ways of thinking and putting on the new ways of thinking.

Our old ways of thinking are usually not our fault! Most of our unrenewed thinking was put in there by someone else, whether that be our parents, our teachers and coaches, our entertainment, or society in general. This wrong thinking is often only evident when it’s too late, when we mess up badly, and we reap the results of our mess up. Often this poor thinking will be revealed in the lies we tell ourselves or the excuses we use to justify those mistakes.

But there is hope. The best way to counter the specific lies we tell ourselves is with specific truths from the Bible. This is what the Apostle Paul meant when he said that true transformation comes from a renewed mind in Romans 12:2.

When it comes to relationships, most of us, have been so inundated with society’s thinking on marriage, dating, sex and relationships that there are deep seeded lies in our thinking that we aren't even aware are there. Again, this is not our fault. But the consequences of this wrong thinking is so devastating to our relationships and causes us, and those closest to us, so much pain.

What we all need to do, all of us - those who are believer’s in Jesus and those of you that aren’t, those of us that are married, and those of you who aren’t - is renew our thinking when it comes to relationships! Obviously, the way we think now in society isn’t working when over 50% of our marriages end up in divorce!

The only way to renew our minds, is to unpack the old ways of thinking and to put on the new. We need to renew our minds about marriage, relationships, sex, dating - all of it! We need to line up our thinking with what God and the Bible teach us about all of that. After all, He has the best track record when it comes to relationships.

The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 2:5 (NIV) "In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:"

The truth is, all of us need to renew our mindsets when it comes to our marriage and relationships! Our society is feeding us so much misinformation, and it sounds so practical and right, but it is deadly!! And it’s tearing relationships apart and destroying people.

With that in mind, here are the Top 5 books I've read to date on marriage that have helped me renew my thinking. These 5 are all based on the Bible and share amazing revelations from God's Word that will revolutionize your marriage and relationships.

Top 5 Marriage Books:

  1. The Marriage Builder by Dr. Larry Crabb
  2. The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller
  3. Manage Your Man by Dr. Hazel Hill
  4. The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman
  5. Sexperiment by Pastor Ed & Lisa Young

Question: What is the best marriage book you've read? Please leave your comment below in the "Leave a Reply" box.

My Top 5 Personal Growth Books

As many of you know, I love to read. It wasn't always that way. In fact, in high school I rarely read the books I was assigned to read. However, today I have a ferocious appetite for books. Why? I think Burke Hedges said it best when he said, "Reading, like no other medium, can transform your life in a flash, and you never know which book, at which time in your life, might be the one that rocks your world and inspires you to grow in ways you never thought possible."

My appetite for books is driven by my insatiable hunger for knowledge. I want to grow. I desire to be a better leader, a better pastor, a better husband, a better dad, a better communicator, a better friend, a better coach, a better man. The world today has an abundance of knowledge at our finger tips and you can learn anything about anything if you really search for it. But knowledge doesn't come through osmosis, you have to go get it yourself. And that is why I read. I find that through devouring a book I can gain knowledge that took the author years of education and experience to acquire, and I can acquire it in just 3 to 4 hours of concentrated time.

Because I read so much, I am often asked by other pastors and leaders about the latest, greatest book I've read. I try to read a minimum of a book-a-week and because of this pace I read a lot of garbage books, too. I would like to help you wade through the mire and save you invaluable time by posting books I've read on my blog under the "Saturday Book Review" heading. So, I would encourage you to check back to the blog every Saturday for a sneak peak into a great book. And then you can decide for yourself whether it is one you need to read or not.

Join Me on

I would also like to invite you to join me on my new online book club found on an app called You can access this app here or you can see a regular link to what I've read and am currently reading in the far right column on my blog page. If you become my friend on you can see all the books I've read (at least the ones I've entered since joining the app) and how I've rated the books. You can also post what you're reading, rate it, and even write a review. In this way, we can regularly interact with what we're learning and grow together! I'd encourage you to sign up right away. It's free, and easy to use.

To keep a regular habit of reading, you will have to have a personal growth plan. This includes setting aside time and money to grow yourself. Here are my favorite 5 books that have helped me do just that! These may be the 5 most important books you will ever read (besides the Bible of course).

Click on the title and it will take you directly to so you can order yourself a copy today.

  1. Today Matters - Learn 12 Daily Practices to Guarantee Tomorrow's Success by John C. Maxwell
  2. Goals - Learn how to set goals and how to get everything you want faster than you ever thought possible by Brian Tracy
  3. The 12 Traits of the Great by Dr. Dave Martin
  4. Creating Your Personal Life Plan e-book by Michael Hyatt
  5. Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald

Question: What book (besides the Bible) has helped you the most to personally grow? You can comment below in the "Leave a Reply" box.

Related Posts:

  1. The 25 Books Every Pastor Should Read
  2. Top 3 Books on Communication
  3. Goals!

Start With Why

The goal was ambitious. Public interest was high. Experts were eager to contribute. Money was readily available. (the following is an excerpt from the book Start With Why by Simon Sinek)

Armed with every ingredient for success, Samuel Pierpont Langley set out in the early 1900’s  to be the first man to pilot an airplane. Highly regarded, he was a senior officer at the Smithsonian Institution, a mathmatics professor who had also worked at Harvard. His friends included some of the most powerful men in government and business, including Andrew Carnegie and Alexander Graham Bell. Langley was given a $50,000 grant from the War Department to fund his project, a tremendous amount of money at the time. He pulled the best minds of the day, a dream team of varied talents and know how. Langley and his team used the finest material, and the press followed him everywhere. People all over the country were riveted to the story, waiting to read that he had achieved his goal. With the team he had gathered and the ample resources, he success was guaranteed. Or was it?

A few hundred miles away, Wilbur and Orville Wright were working on their own flying machine. Their passion to fly was so intense that it inspired the enthusiasm and commitment of a dedicated group in their hometown of Dayton, Ohio. There was no funding for their venture. No government grants. No high-level connections. Not a single person on the team had an advanced degree or even a college education, not even Wilbur and Orville. But the team banded together in a humble bicycle shop and made their vision real. On December 17, 1903, a small group witnessed a man take flight for the first time in history.

How did the Wright brothers succeed where a better-equipped, better-funded and better educated team could not?

It wasn’t luck. Both the Wright brothers and Langley were highly motivated. Both had a strong work ethic. Both had keen scientific minds. They were pursuing exactly the same goal, but only the Wright brothers were able to inspire those around them and truly lead their team to develop a technology that would change our world.

When Langley didn’t achieve his goal of being the first to fly, he simply walked away from it all. He quit. Giving us insight into his real motivation. The Wright brothers on the other hand were known for bring 3-5 sets of parts to each flight attempt, knowing they could fail that many times in a day and they didn’t want to take the time to go back to the shop and get more parts.

What made the Wright brothers succeed while Langley couldn't? What is the difference between Apple and other computer companies? Why are Apple owners so passionate about their brand?

Loyalty is when people are willing to turn down a better product or a better price to continue doing business with you. Loyal customers don’t even bother to research the competition or entertain other options. Loyalty is not easily won.

So what is it with Apple and why are their customers so loyal? Author Simon Sinek claims that the secret of the greatest companies (and the greatest churches) is that they Start With Why.

To order a copy of Start With Why by Simon Sinek CLICK HERE.

The 5 Levels of Leadership

I have read almost all of John Mawell's books. He has been an incredible influence on my life and leadership. But, to be honest, I have struggled through his last few books. I have found them repetitive and uninspiring, that is until his latest, The 5 Levels of Leadership was released! This book might simply be his best yet! It is a must read for every leader and it was one I made sure I bought for my staff team.

Here are the 5 Levels of Leadership as John Maxwell describes them and a brief explanation of each:

  1. Position - People follow because they have to. Positional leadership is based on the rights granted by the position and title. Positional leaders usually have difficulty working with volunteers, younger people, and the highly educated.
  2. Permission - People follow because they want to. Level 2 leadership is based entirely on relationships. You can like people without leading them, but you cannot lead people well without liking them.
  3. Production - People follow because of what you have done for the organization. Level 3 leadership is based on results. This is when leading becomes fun, however, this is the easiest place to plateau.
  4. People Development - People follow because of what you have done for them personally. Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others. Level 4 is based on reproduction.
  5. Pinnacle - People follow because of who you are and what you represent. Level 5 leadership is based on reputation.

Insights into the 5 Levels of Leadership:

  1. You can move up a level but you never leave the previous one behind.
  2. You are not on the same level with every person.
  3. The higher you go, the easier it is to lead.
  4. The higher you go, the more time and commitment is required to win a level.
  5. Moving up levels occurs slowly, but going down can happen quickly.
  6. The higher you go, the greater the return.
  7. Moving farther up always requires further growth. Growing as a leader require a combination of intentional growth and leadership experience.
  8. Not climbing the levels limits you and your people. When leaders stop climbing, 2 questions need to be asked: “Can they improve?” and “Will they improve?” Some people can’t: they’ve reached their limit. Others won’t. Capacity is not the problem: choice and attitude are.
  9. When you change positions or organizations, you seldom stay at the same level.
  10. You cannot climb the levels alone. Good leadership isn’t about advancing yourself. It’s about advancing your team.

Download the accompanying leadership evaluation questionnaire (as a pdf) with the five stages of every leader and how to maximize each. If you complete this four-part questionnaire you will be in a much better position to grow in your leadership as you read and work through the book, The 5 Levels of Leadership.

I highly recommend this book. In fact, I would categorize it as the foundational read for every leader regardless of vocation or current position. To order a copy for yourself or for your team CLICK HERE.

Question: What disciplines do you currently use to regularly grow yourself and your leadership? You can comment in the "Leave a Reply" box below.

Top 3 Books on Communication

"Poor communication is the No. 1 culprit of failed relationships—in business and at home. Since relationships are the foundation of success, leaders would be wise to invest in the communication skills of context and delivery. Master them, and you'll more easily gain favor, more readily make friends, and more effectively motivate others." - Dr. John C. Maxwell

Here is a list of the top 3 books I've read on communication and preaching.

  1. Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley My big takeaway from Andy's book was how to design a more effective order of delivery. He taught these simple 5 steps:

    • Me 
- begin by building credibility by talking about yourself. Be open and vulnerable. Share something you are struggling with, questioning, or meditating on.
    • We
 - create the “hook” by asking “am I the only one, or do you share the same questions or frustrations?"
 Talk about the problem until they are desperate for the answer.
    • God
 - now bring in your scripture. What does God say about this issue? How does the Bible address this problem?
    • You 
- now that we know what the problem is and how God addresses it, what are you going to do about it?
    • We
 - close by casting vision of the preferred future. Begin your vision casting with “Now imagine if we all applied what we just learned. Imagine if..."

    This book is a must read for all pastors! It will revolutionize your messages on Sundays. I know it did for me, and our congregation immediately noticed the difference.

  2. The Big Idea by Dave Ferguson My big takeaway from Dave's book was to give up on trying to communicate multi-point messages and focus on getting across one point. I learned to take a 3-point message and turn it into a 3-part series. Preaching one point made the messages more memorable and therefore more applicable. Ferguson taught four reasons for narrowing the focus in your communication. He said:

    • The more you focus your messages, the greater the relevance.
    • The more you focus your messages, the better the connection.
    • The more you focus your messages, the higher the quality.
    • The more you focus your messages, the stronger the impact.

    This book is a definite must read. It will give you better communication skills as well as link you to invaluable materials that you can use to better prepare and better deliver your messages.

  3. Everyone Communicates, Few Connect by John Maxwell The ability to connect with others is a major determining factor in reaching your full potential. This book shares five principles and five practices for breaking the invisible barrier to leadership and personal success, including:

    • Finding Common Ground
    • Keeping Your Communications Simple
    • Capturing People's Interest
    • Inspiring People
    • Staying Authentic in All Your Relationships

The common theme in all of these books is that simple is best when it comes to communication. What I've learned is that simplicity is a developed skill that usually takes more preparation and is a lot more work. But it is worth it! And these three books give you the tools necessary to become a world-class communicator. Click on the title of the book and order your copy today.

Axioms - Language Matters

“Leaders rise and fall by the language they use.” Pastor Bill Hybels made this statement at the beginning of his outstanding book, Axiom - Powerful Leadership Proverbs.

Hybels claimed the right words will make a vision take flight.
 Sometimes whole visions live or die on the basis of the words the leader chooses for articulating that vision. 
He gave an example of a time when he was trying to rally his church to compassionate outreach in their community. He wrestled and wrestled with the right words to articulate what he was feeling. Hybels said he spent much more time wrestling over the memorable axiom than he did over the rest of his sermon. It wasn't good enough to say we are going “to be compassionate.” The right phrase would have to inspire and motivate. Finally, after more than a day pondering the right phrase, he settled on “we are going to unleash unprecedented amounts of compassion into our broken world.”
 Words like unleash and unprecedented acted as the motivating factors he was looking for. The results were amazing. The congregation was excited and did unleash unprecedented amounts of compassion on their community and thousands of people were touched because this one phrase was so motivating.

Carefully chosen phrases can make strategic plans sound like rally cries. As leaders our words matter. That's the premise of the book and if we as leaders would take the time to carefully craft memorable axioms we could motivate our congregations to a cause like never before. For example, when I was pastoring in Okotoks, I discovered that the greatest need in the community was the need for identity and purpose. I desired to rally people around these two problems and felt that our new church could be the solution. I sensed that Ephesians 4:11-12 would be our guide and that we as the church would "equip the saints with the work of the ministry." But how could I articulate what was in my heart in a short memorable phrase that would make our strategic plan come alive? After much digging we settled on “Our Dream is to Help You Build Yours.”
 This worked exactly as we had hoped. It became our rallying cry and enabled us to reach hundreds of people with the gospel of Jesus.

Hybels claimed that axioms bolster a culture and steady it against the winds of change.
 I believe this to be the absolute truth. I have discovered that the natural gravitational pull of the local church is to be insider focused. When that happens the church becomes more about performance and appearance than outreach and care. To resist this natural drift in our church we adopted John Burke's axiom “No perfect people allowed.” This simple, memorable phrase is often repeated by all of our members and bolsters the culture we are trying to establish so that we can consistently and more effectively reach the unchurched.

This book is a must read for every leader and especially every pastor. It's a simple little secret that can make you more effective in casting vision and making your visions stick over time. Order your copy today by clicking HERE.

Questions: What "axioms" do you use to bolster your vision and culture? Do you have personal axioms that guide you or your family?


Winning with Differentiation

Jack Welch is the former CEO of GE. Under his leadership, GE grew from $26 billion in revenues to $130 billion and from around $14 billion in market value to over $410 billion, making it the most valuable company in the world at the time. He might be best-known for what he terms as differentiation. He defines this technique and many more in his outstanding book, Winning.

"Differentiation is the ability to make clear and meaningful distinctions between top and bottom performing businesses and people." ~Jack Welch

Welch set a crystal clear picture for GE and the results he expected. Here are 3 of these standards:

  1. If a GE business could not be number one or number two in its market, it would be cut. (There was a time when 12 out of GE's 14 business units were leading their markets.)
  2. Any business that was struggling would be "fixed, closed, or sold."
  3. Every year, GE would fire the bottom 10% of their work force.

Because of these dramatically high standards he received the nickname Neutron Jack and many negatively remember him for the over a hundred thousand people who were laid off during his tenure. So, what was his reasoning for such drastic standards? He explained it this way in one of the chapters of the book:

Why Differentiation?

  1. A company wins when their managers cultivate the strong and cull the weak. Winning leaders invest where the payback is the highest. They cut their losses everywhere else.
  2. Differentiation is a way to manage people and businesses. One of the main misunderstandings about differentiation is that it is only about people. That’s to miss half of it.
  3. Differentiation requires managers to know which is strong and which is weak and invest accordingly. Every company has strong businesses or product lines and weak ones and some in between.
  4. Differentiation should only be implemented after clear-cut performance systems, with defined expectations and goals and timelines, and a program of consistent appraisals.

As you can imagine, not everyone gets excited about differentiation. To many it is cold and uncaring. Welch faced enormous amount of criticism and is still considered to be the CEO of the century. He addressed the top 3 complaints this way.

Reasons People Hate Differentiation:

  1. Differentiation is unfair because it’s always corrupted by company politics, it is just a way of separating the people who kiss the boss’s rear from those who don’t.
 This is why differentiation can only be implemented after clear-cut performance systems, with defined expectations and goals and timelines, and a program of consistent appraisals.
  2. Differentiation is mean and bullying. It’s like the playground in the worst possible way - weak kids are made into fools, outcasts, and objects of ridicule. When differentiation is working, people know where they stand. When you know where you stand, you can control your own destiny, and what is more fair than that?
  3. Differentiation pits people against one another and undermines teamwork.
 Differentiation rewards those members of the team who deserve it. By the way, that annoys only the underperformers. To everyone else, it seems fair. And fair environment promotes teamwork. Better yet, it motivates people to give their all, and that’s what you want.

I found this book to be a very interesting read for a number of reasons. I wasn't sure at first how the principles Welch shared could be translated to the non-profit/church setting. What I discovered as I read through each chapter were principles of leadership and outstanding management that would have immediate impact on my ministry. I definitely feel this book made me a better leader.

To order a copy of your own of Winning by Jack Welch Click Here.

Goals!: How to Get Everything You Want - Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible

A few months back I read the book Goals!: How to Get Everything You Want -- Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible by Brian Tracy. To be honest, this has been one of the best books I have read so far this year. I have read a number of books that talk about goal setting and the majority of them left much to be desired. But, Brian Tracy's book was extremely thorough, practical and easy to apply.

In fact, something significant just happened to me yesterday as a result of this book. On April 13 I hired Impact Nutrition to help me lose weight and to get back into shape. At that time I weighed 198lbs. I set a 3 month goal of losing 23lbs and weighing in at 175lbs. Yesterday, July 13, 3 months to the day I set the goal I weighed in at 174.5lbs for the first time since my early 20's. It took a lot of work and discipline to get to reach this goal, but the fact that I did reach it on the exact date I set out to, really got me thinking. Was it just a coincidence? Do the 12 steps Tracy gives in the book really work this well?

The 12 steps to achieve any goal:

  1. Have a desire: What do you really want? I was clear on what I wanted. I was easily fatigued and wasn't feeling my best. I was mentally making mistakes that were unusual for me and I knew that it was because of my physical health. I was afraid to visit the doctor because I knew what he would say and I felt ignorance was better. I needed to do something!
  2. Believe that your goal is achievable. I knew if I disciplined myself I could reach the goal. I knew it was possible and my trainer confirmed that it was a reasonable goal. I also knew it was going to take a lot of work.
  3. Write the goal down. Tracy reiterates in the book time and time again the importance of writing a goal on paper. I did write it down. In fact this is what I wrote, following his instructions of how to write a goal: "I weigh 175lbs by July 13, 2012."
  4. Determine your starting point. This was easy. I weighed in at 198lbs when I started. My waist size was 34" and I was desperately out of shape.
  5. Determine why you want it. This may have been the biggest breakthrough for me in this process. For the first time, my desire to lose weight wasn't about me. Yes, I was out of shape and yes I was tired and unhealthy, but this time I didn't want to lose weight just for me. I decided I wanted to get healthy so that I would live longer and enjoy my family. I don't want anyone else sleeping with my wife and raising my kids because I die early. It was time to aggressively take care of my health - for them!
  6. Set a deadline. I set the deadline of July 13 and wrote it down. A goal without a deadline is simply a fantasy.
  7. Identify the obstacles in your way. I knew the biggest obstacle would be myself. Could I maintain the discipline it would take to fulfill the dream? I was given a strict eating plan and was required to work-out at the gym 3x per week plus 30min of cardio every day. To say that I didn't want to cheat or wasn't tempted to give up would be a lie. Almost everyday, I was tempted in one way or another to pack it in. The reason I kept focused was because of my why.
  8. Determine the additional knowledge and skills you need. I knew I couldn't do this on my own. I wanted to eat right, without some fad diet plan. And I wanted to train properly. I didn't have the expertise it would take for either of these areas, so I sought the help of Impact Nutrition.
  9. Determine the people whose help you will need. Justin Wilson at Impact Nutrition helped me immensely. He has been amazing and everything he has taught me so far has worked just as he said it would. As well my personal trainer, Kira Sangster, has worked me hard and kept me on target in my work-outs.
  10. Make a plan: Put it all together. With the help of Justin and Kira we made a plan and made it work.
  11. Visualize your goal continually. Honestly, I never once tried to visualize a six-pack abs or a ripped physique. What I visualized when I wanted to give up was seeing my kids graduate, their weddings, enjoying my future grand-kids, and loving growing old with my wife.
  12. Never give up.

I would highly recommend everyone read this book! To order a copy for yourself, just click here.