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

It's More Important to be One Than it is to be Right

Last summer my wife and I attended the Word of Life Camp Meeting in Red Deer. In the first session of the conference, speaker and author John Bevere made a statement that has bugged me ever since. He said: "It’s more important to be one than it is to be right."

It's an irritating burr in my spirit because I highly value being right. This is especially true in my role as a pastor. I value correct doctrine. I pride myself in doing church the right way and that I am interpreting the Bible accurately and living my life so as to please God. But do I really know what it means to please God? I thought I knew, until John made this audacious statement. I began to scour the scripture to invalidate his claim. All I found was confirmation that he was actually right.

Look at Jesus' prayer in John 17:20-23. He was praying for His disciples just before He was about to release them into their ministries.

"I'm praying not only for them but also for those who will believe in me because of them and their witness about me. The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, so they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. The same glory you gave me, I gave them, so they'll be as unified and together as we are—I in them and you in me. Then they'll be mature in this oneness, and give the godless world evidence that you've sent me and loved them in the same way you've loved me."

The goal, as Jesus stated it, was not to keep them theologically correct. Jesus seemed more concerned that they be in unity than remain precise in their doctrine. Wow! It caused me to think about how my need to be right has actually created separation from others. I’ve removed myself from pastors and churches and denominations and even friends because I thought it was more important to be right. I used the excuse that even Jesus was rejected because He was right. But desiring rightness over oneness actually creates a culture that repels the very ones He commanded us to reach. He even suggested that our oneness would increase our ability to reach them.

I'm not saying accurate doctrine and biblical theology are not important. But I am saying they are not as important as our unity. What if churches could put aside their doctrinal differences for a moment and instead of viewing each other as competition, actually join together in unity to reach their communities for Christ? What if we sought unity based on what we can agree on instead of focusing on what we disagree on? Most agree that Jesus is God, that He lived, He died on a cross for our sin, He rose again from the dead, and that He will return. What if that became the foundation for our unity and we left the rest up to interpretation? What would change?

Has your desire to be right affected any of your relationships?

Guard Your Heart (Culture)

"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." Proverbs 4:23

If culture is the heart of an organization then it would reason that Solomon's plea also applies to leaders in regard to the organizations they lead. It's the leaders responsibility to guard the heart of the organization. Can you clearly define the culture you're called to protect?

This is the question I began asking myself. I was a Senior Pastor and I was settled on my WHY - I wanted to reach the unchurched. Our leadership team and I began to make changes to our Sunday morning services to do just that. And it worked, for a season. However, what we noticed was that while we had a lot of new faces each week, we had a very poor retention rate. Something was missing.

As I began to dig for the missing link, I quickly discovered that our culture was a fog in my own mind and therefore was a cloud in the minds of our people. What was more alarming was the fact that culture trumps our vision. Our lack of clarity in values, our heart, our culture, left an unguarded heart that was acting as a counterweight to our vision. Before we could "guard our heart," we needed to know what to protect and it had to align with our WHY.

As someone who is passionate about the Word of God, I went to the Bible first to find scriptures that would summarize simply what was important to us. We settled on four passages and these became our Four Pillars. They became a guide to our tangible and intangible behaviors. (read Is the Culture of Your Church Inviting to Outsiders for a deeper explanation of these behaviors)

  1. Romans 2:4, "Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?" It doesn't say God's judgement or even that the fear of God leads to repentance. It says the kindness of God leads people to repentance. This became our guiding scripture to become a grace-based ministry. When in doubt, we would chose to err on the side of grace.
  2. Ephesians 4:11-12, "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ." We took this to mean the organizational flow chart would be flipped upside down - that the staff would seek to serve and equip our people to minister instead of asking them to serve us and our vision.
  3. Mark 16:15-20, "...And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed." We didn't just want to preach the Word, we wanted to show the Word in real and tangible ways. We expected to see real life changed. Real miracles. We didn't want hype and weirdness, but we did desire to see "signs follow."
  4. John 17:20-21, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me." It's interesting to me that when Jesus prayed for His followers, He never asked God to keep them theologically correct, or that they would preach the Word with accuracy. His primary concern was that they remain in unity. And through this unity the world would know about Jesus.

Can you clearly define your culture? Which values do you passionately guard?