Archive | Leadership

Sticky Teams | Larry Osborne

The cover of Osborne's Sticky TeamsLarry Osborne is a proven commodity. He has pastored all different sizes and styles of churches including North Coast Church in San Diego. If you’re going to read a book on leadership, you might as well read someone who has been through it all.

Sticky Teams is a highly practical easy-to-read book on developing the unity of your church’s leadership team. The chapters are written in such a casual conversational tone you feel like you’re in Osborne’s office—his mistakes and successes are in full view. The book is surprisingly comprehensive as well. Osborne begins by examining the elements of team unity and doesn’t stop until he gets to finances.

(Regarding finances, my philosophy of ministry is quite different from Osborne. Even so, his words made me question and think through why I do what I do.)

While Osborne has experience in all sizes of churches, this book is (naturally) skewed toward the larger church that has a bigger team to bring together. Leaders of any sized team, however, would do well to think through Osborne’s ministry life and learn.

—Larry Osborne, Sticky Teams (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010).

When Helping Hurts | Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert

The cover of Corbett & Fikkert's When Helping HurtsAt my last church, we had an administrative assistant who handled all requests for help in consultation with the senior pastor. It wasn’t until I moved to Bracebridge that I realized how difficult it is to help people in need in a way that genuinely benefits them. It’s easy to allocate a gift card from a benevolent fund—it’s much harder to truly help.

When Helping Hurts is a solid resource for churches developing a benevolent policy. Corbett and Fikkert not only examine the needs of the materially poor but also the heart issues of the givers.

One of the most helpful parts of this book was Corbett & Fikkert’s distinctions between the type of aid needed:

  1. Relief: Immediate short-term aid to stop the bleeding.
  2. Rehabilitation: Working with people (not for them) to help their situation.
  3. Development: A more broad based look at the causes of the poverty.

How many times have we thrown relief at a situation that requires much more labour-intensive (and rewarding) rehabilitation?

This book puts poverty in its theological context and will help you and your church to develop sound benevolent and mission policy.

—Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor … and Yourself, Expanded Edition (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers 2009, 2012).

A Work of Heart | Reggie McNeal

Once again I’m forced to write a review of a Christian leadership book and once again, I’m of two minds.

If the idea of delving into scripture to mine leadership qualities doesn’t bother you, then this book is one of the best that I’ve read.

McNeal begins by examining the lives of Moses, David, Paul, and Jesus to see how leadership qualities are evident in their lives. McNeal rightly emphasizes the importance heart-formation through remaining close to God and allowing him to change you.

In the second half of the book, McNeal examines six areas where the leader’s qualities are worked out:

  1. Culture
  2. Call
  3. Community
  4. Communion
  5. Conflict
  6. Commonplace

I was privileged to read this book through with a Bible College student in a mentoring relationship. There was always plenty of material and insights to discuss.

Here are a few of my problems with leadership books in general. The Bible doesn’t speak about leadership—shepherding and servanthood are the key metaphors.

Furthermore, the idea that there is a separate class of people who operate on a special “leadership” level seems foreign to the thrust of the New Testament. Jesus’ disciples didn’t look like people with high-level leadership qualities. They became effective once they were empowered by the Spirit.

We should examine what we mean by “leadership qualities,” too. Don’t we mean the sort of personal characteristics that make people successful in the business world today? What right do we have to dive anachronistically through scripture in an attempt to uncover these 21st century values?

On a hermentutical level, why do we assume that the personal qualities of people like Moses and David are qualities we should emulate? Scripture is the story of how God used these people—not how they were skilled enough to be used.

There you have it. If you enjoy the “christian leadership” genre, this is one of the best on the topic. If you share my reservations, leave this book on the shelf.

Drive | Daniel Pink

I’m torn about how to write this review. I think I’ll have to proceed with two perspectives:

1. The Idea. Despite the mild hyperbole in the subtitle (“The Surprising Truth”), the thesis of Pink’s book is inspirational and well-grounded. Motivating people with sticks and carrots doesn’t work like we assume. People these days are more driven by a desire for autonomy, a desire for mastery, and a desire to add value to life.

This is the sort of idea that can take root and change the way you look at your own life, not to mention the obvious application for management. I put the book down a few weeks ago, and I’m still mulling over the application. Five out of five for popularizing this idea.

2. The Format. This shouldn’t be a book. It’s more suited for weekend conference lecture fodder. I could almost see the PowerPoint presentation in the back of my mind as I read. The book is a string of illustrations and examples that support his idea.

My problem with the book crystallized during the appendix where he offers a Twitter summary, a cocktail party summary, and a chapter-by-chapter summary of his work. The Twitter summary nails it, the cocktail party summary fleshes it out, and the chapter-by-chapter summary seems like overkill. If you can reduce your book to 140 characters, do you really need to write the rest of the pages?

Perhaps this is just my frustration with the format of modern business / self-help books. If so, disregard and enjoy.

The Irresistible Church | Wayne Cordeiro

I suppose, as a mega-church pastor, you can only be asked for the secrets to your success for so long before you finally break down and write a book about it! In The Irresistible Church, Cordeiro follows in the footsteps of other large-scale church leaders in writing down the elements that helped his ministry grow. To his credit, this isn’t a book about specific strategies or marketing. Instead, he writes about topics like teaching church attenders to feed themselves spiritually, growing from your mistakes, and the need to be humble.

I was underwhelmed by the book. It’s a mildly inspirational/motivational read for pastors who are too busy to do any serious study. The twelve traits are quite random and reflect the priorities of Western evangelical church culture. When scripture is used, it’s often just inserted out of context to prop up his point, like a good proof-text should. Take, for example, Psalm 46:10 (ESV):

Be still, and know that I am God
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!

Did you know that was written to encourage believers to get to know God for themselves, not just via church sermons?

The length was also an issue. When you try to pack 12 traits into 142 pages (more in the consumer version—I’m assuming added padding and call-outs), you’re left with about 10 pages per trait after the introductory stuff’s out of the way. Pack in lots of illustrative stories and a healthy dose of bullet-points, and you’re not left with much content in the way of actual teaching.

Here’s a question. Does your personal library have a lot of John Maxwell and Rick Warren titles in it? If so, you’ll probably enjoy this book. If you trend more towards Richard Foster and Eugene Peterson, you may want to look elsewhere for inspiration.

Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided at no cost through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer’s program.

Change Your Church For Good | Brad Powell

I don’t know what to give this book for a rating. Let me explain.

Brad Powell is the lead pastor of a church in Detroit that went from traditional and ineffective to relevant. In this book, he shares a number of keys to the transition: both the things they did right, and the mistakes we should learn from. Unlike most of the literature on church growth I’ve read, Powell’s book has a substantial amount of content. He’s clearly concerned with staying faithful to scripture in all he does. You would expect a great rating, right?

The problem I have is with Powell’s understanding of church. I think it would be fair to say that he views the church as an evangelism centre whose main goal is to reach the lost. That’s a laudable goal, but it’s not the primary goal of the church. The church’s purpose is to come together as Christ’s body to worship, then to go out into the community to spread the kingdom.

With the true purpose in mind, I found it difficult to read passages where he talked about letting go of the people who hold you back from your mission to reach the lost. Those people who “hold you back” are your mission. I’m a pastor—I certainly sympathize with the sentiment—but I can’t agree with it.

In the end, I’ll give this a mid-field rating. If the problem I have doesn’t bother you (or if you just think I’m plain wrong), this really is an excellent book.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free as a member of Thomas Nelson’s Booksneeze program.

Everyone Communicates Few Connect | John C. Maxwell

Maxwell’s latest leadership book offers readers five principles and five practices to help them connect with the people they’re speaking with. At the end of each chapter, he takes time to apply the principle/practice to a one-on-one, small group, and public speaking setting.

The most interesting idea behind book was his crowd-sourcing technique. He took a page out of the wiki world and posted each chapter online to grab blog comment data which he worked into the final manuscript. The people on the cover all contributed to the book. There’s also a comprehensive 4 page small-font list at the end.

That’s where the interesting ends.

If you’ve read a Maxwell book before, you know what to expect. Each page contains one or two pithy headings followed by a string of quotes that was sourced by his ghostwriter. Maxwell is proud of these quotes: “I love quotations. I believe, as British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli said, ‘The wisdom of the wise and the experiences of the ages may be preserved by quotations’.” Now I love a good quote (thus my series of Weekend Wisdom posts) but when your entire book based on strings of quotes, the knockout power of a good saying degenerates into a flurry of uneventful jabs.

If you’ve never read a Maxwell book, give him a try. This is as good as any of them. If you’ve read him before, there’s nothing new here.

“No one can connect with everybody. It doesn’t matter how hard you work at it. Though I strive to be an effective communicator, I know there are people I leave cold when I talk.” Too true.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free as a member of Thomas Nelson’s Booksneeze program.

They Smell Like Sheep | Lynn Anderson

I’ve unintentionally (and unfortunately) discovered the single greatest reason to shop in a physical bookstore rather than online. You can quickly see whether or not a book has pulled-out and enlarged quotes in the sidebar—and avoid wasting your time.

I bought this book for a couple reasons:

  1. Some blog I read recommended it—if only I could remember which blog that was . . .
  2. I’m a new pastor and thought it would be good to supplement my understanding of pastoral theology.

The main idea of the book is theologically sound and quite compelling: pastors need to stop acting like CEOs and recover a biblical model of shepherding. That’s where the goodness ended. I gave the first chapter the benefit of the doubt, but I quickly laid down my underlining pencil when I realized that there wasn’t any meat here for me.

If you want a better grasp of pastoral theology, read any (or all) of Eugene Peterson’s books on the topic instead:

  • Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity
  • Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness
  • Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work
  • The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction

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