Tag Archives: Church Leadership

Book Review: A Fellowship of Differents by Scot McKnight

Sometimes Christianity in theory collides with Christianity in every day practical life. At those times we are tempted to give up, and simply say that is the way of the sinful world, or that’s just the way it is.

Thank you Scot McKnight and your latest book A Fellowship of Differents: Showing the World God’s Design for Life Together Available on Amazon.com, for you remind us God’s better way is still the path to follow. Scot navigates that path with grace, love, table, holiness, newness and flourishing. These 6 parts of the book weave together to paint a picture of what the Church could be and even better what it can be in Christ.

What I appreciate about Scot’s style of writing is his transparency with his past (let’s just say “differents” wasn’t high on the list in his growing up years), how he faces the challenges of the present (denominations and divisive issues), and paints a picture for a potential future (what life might be like if we embraced God’s grace in Ephesians 2 beyond verses 8 and 9 through the end of the chapter).

Scot confronts present reality and offers future vision with a driving core value of unity. Turns out Scot thinks Jesus prayer for unity in John 17 wasn’t merely wishful thinking by the Savior but a vision of what our future can be in life together.

It’s way to easy to find the issues that divide that lead to barrier building. But to build unity that flows out of grace, that builds from the means of grace in the water and around the Lord’s table.

I give A Fellowship of Differents 5 out of 5 stars. I appreciated the picture Scot paints of what the church can be. I long for that unity in heaven to reveal more of itself in life on this earth. This is a great book for pastors and church leaders who tire of what divides us and long to build a church united around Christ.

Thank you to Book Look Bloggers and Zondervan for a free copy to review. I didn’t have to give a positive review just an honest one.




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Book Review: Fairness is Overrated and 51 Other Leadership Principles by Tim Stevens

Leaders lead. Wise leaders also learn, and really wise leaders will take the time to learn from Tim Stevens latest book, Fairness is Overrated and 51 Other Leadership Principles. In bite size chapters, Tim packs powerful insight from dealing with change to staff to time management to leveraging leadership.

The chapters range from 3-4 pages, but in those pages there is great wisdom. I especially appreciated the questions at the end of the chapter for further reflection and the notes at the end of the book for going deeper. The result is a book of practical wisdom from one who has not only been in the trenches but navigated his way through.

Tim could have merely focused on his successes at Granger Community Church (and other places) but he’s transparent with his failures and his challenges. Tim does not come off as the expert but a fellow traveler on the leadership journey pointing out pit falls and opportunities along the way.

The 52 chapters are spread out over 4 parts:

1. Be a Leader Worth Following

2. Find the Right People.

3. Build a Healthy Culture

4. Lead Confidently through a Crisis

The chapters that dealt with change and leveraging meetings I found most valuable as they gave me a new perspective in dealing with next steps. One of my favorite phrases from the book is “Focus on Five”: Identifying 5 areas for the whole church to focus in the year ahead. Such a focus builds unity and banishes silos.

I made two mistakes reading this book, I read it quickly and I read it alone. The better pace for reading this book is  perhaps a chapter a day, and then journal answers to the questions and insights for personal growth. Reading this book with a leadership team on a weekly meeting basis provides intentional time for building team leadership.

I give Fairness is Overrated and 51 Other Leadership Principles 5 out of 5 stars. This was a valuable book for my own leadership development, I look forward to raising its value with the team I lead. My thanks to BookLook Bloggers for a free copy to review. I wasn’t required to give a positive review, just an honest one.

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Book Review: Redefining Leadership by Joseph Stowell

“From God’s perspective, great and trusted leaders are those who have chosen to lead from the heart-side out” write Joe Stowell in his new book, Redefining Leadership. The redefinition Stowell provides puts an emphasis on character more than outcome.

The Outcome-Driven Leader motivates to achieve organizational outcomes, the Character-Driven Leader influence others through exemplary lives to achieve outcomes personally, spiritually, communally and organizationally. For me this was more a reaffirming spiritual leadership than redefining leadership.

I appreciated his recognition that the biggest challenge in leadership is me. Stewarding the leadership gift and recognizing the path your definition of success sends you are good parameters to remember in one’s leadership.

The strength of Redefining Leadership is laying out a philosophy for a leader that follows Christ with his personal stories and love of his father. The book was strong on defining leadership priorities, identity and kingdom living. Yet I kept thinking, “Yes, but how?” Christ is affirmed as our example, but we didn’t delve into the prayer life of Jesus as a habit of leadership.

One straw man I felt in the book was large church vs. small church pastor. The small church pastor often came off as the character driven leader to affirm, the large church pastor too often was the outcome driven leader. Having led churches of various sizes and having friends who do the same, the issue isn’t automatically the size of one’s church but the condition of one’s heart.

Another straw man was the realm of business leadership resources. His powerful illustration in Chapter 2: The Unlikely Leader of Pastor Bob’s fear he hadn’t even moved to good after reading Good to Great grabbed me. Yet Stowell never moved back to what is described as being a Level 5 leader in Good to Great, one that would affirm character based leadership is recognized in business and not just the church.

I give Redefining Leadership 4 out of 5 stars. More than redefining leadership the book reaffirmed servant leadership. If one is new to leadership in the church, Stowell paints a picture of God at work in stewarding leadership that is worth a closer look. If you need a look in the mirror about your leadership philosophy, this book provides a good peak at one’s heart. My thanks to Zondervan and BookLook Bloggers for a free copy to review. I wasn’t required to give a positive review, just an honest one.


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Book Review: Sacred Roots by Jon Tyson

Does church matter? The answer to that question may depend on your faith background, your age, and your perception of what church is in the first place. Sacred Roots: Why the Church Still Matters by Jon Tyson seeks to answer that question as part of the Barna Group Frames collection of quick takes that engage their church research. Their goal is to have less to read, but give more to know.

Frames books are small in size and length. They can be read in one sitting. But their message is powerful. Particularly in engaging research findings. What I appreciated about Sacred Roots is not only how it set the context of the perception of church in American society today and especially with a millennial focus, but how it responded to the situation with positive next steps.

Barna groups paints a picture with the data. Jon Tyson painted a vision of what the church is and can be. Part of Jon’s answer deals with how the church in American society has been influenced by two cultural forces: our love for entertainment and our individualistic driving focus.

Then Jon addresses the issue and does so out of his context of how he has seen church matter in our day and in his location, New York City. The challenge as he sees it is for the American church to shift back to its Sacred Roots:

1. From dabbling to devotion: Spiritual life takes top priority.

2. From transience to permanence: Stay in one place.

3. From preference to proximity: Doing life together.

4. From belief to practices: Faith in action.

Jon’s insights were the best part of this frame for me. The follow up re-frame by Rich Villodas was also helpful, but it would have been better to have someone not from New York City make a contribution. The church in America is more than what happens with the church in New York City.

I give Sacred Roots 4 out of 5 stars. Quick read. Good insights. Though I found it’s applications valuable, there was too much of a New York focus in its application.My thanks to Zondervan publishing for a free copy to review. I wasn’t required to give a positive review just an honest one.

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Book Review: Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret by Larry Osborne

Some books are written from ivory towers, others are from the trenches. Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret by Larry Osborne and is an  in the trenches book that will help you navigate innovation and change.

Larry writes a fast paced book filled with the wisdom of a sage. Based not only on his experience but also the experiences of others, Larry charts a path for dealing with innovation.

By the way, the dirty little secret of innovation — it fails. That’s why you need an exit strategy and perhaps a greater realization that your greatest problem may be the road to your latest innovation.

Larry defines an innovation as having 2 components: “(1) work in the real word, and (2) be widely adopted within a particular organization or industry or in the marketplace.” 

Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret is written to leaders dealing with change and seeking to identify next steps for growth. Those looking to develop the next I-phone or latest, greatest invention will be disappointed.

Of the 7 parts of the book, Part 6: Why Vision Matters is my favorite. Mission is the elevator speech statement of what you do. Vision drills down on that statement to flesh out the mission, and develops much like a Polaroid picture — over time. Vision brings greater clarity to the mission. The Leader’s role is to create and sustain vision.

Throughout the book I appreciated not only Larry’s sharing of life experience and the wisdom from that, but the frequent inclusion of questions to ask as one works through the innovation process. Questions like: “What (if anything) do we need to change to make our mission statement more ruthlessly honest, widely known, or broadly accepted?”

I give Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret 5 out of 5 stars. The combination of in the trench experience, the ability to process that experience for others, and the brutal honesty to include the role of failure in innovation makes this a valuable read for leaders.

My thanks to Zondervan and BookSneeze for a free copy to review. I wasn’t required to give a positive review, just an honest one.

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Book Review: Embracing Shared Ministry by Joseph H. Hellerman

Context provides understanding. To understand biblical principles of leadership, especially for team based ministry today, it is good to know the early church world and ours. That’s the great value of Joseph H. Hellerman’s book, Embracing Shared Ministry. He looks at power and status (2 key concepts in the book) at work in the early church and in our world today.

Writing with the mind of a professor and the heart of a pastor, Hellerman works through Paul’s letter to the Philippians and how its uniqueness as a Roman colony  impacts Paul’s writing of Philippians and even more Paul’s implications for leadership.

Yet his target in the book is to lift up team or even more consensus based ministry. He is opposed to the sole pastor leader who leads without any accountability or input. A major thrust of the book is dealing with the dangers of unaccountable pastors who lead in a way that does not reflect biblical values. I affirm the danger he describes, I wish he had spent more time on the solution than the problem.

What I appreciated most about Embracing Shared Ministry is the context and clarification Hellerman provided in the first two parts of the book in dealing with power and authority in the Roman world, and in the early church. His writing style provided solid scholarship as well as putting those concepts in every day understandable terms. His use of illustrations provided clarity. His use of quotes provided context.

I wish he had spent more time in digging out the treasure of his cruciform concept of leadership. That is how the cross impacts and is to influence Christian leadership today. His examples were primarily from his own experience, and his biblical context was primarily from Philippians.

I give Embracing Shared Ministry 4 out of 5 stars. I am glad I read the book for the early church background. I would have appreciated greater insight and depth to shared ministry. Those who would enjoy this book the most would be ones who want to see how leadership and life functioned in the days of the early church, and to better understand the book of Philippians. Those who need the book the most are probably the most reluctant to read it — unaccountable church leaders who fly on a solo path.

My thanks to Kregel Publishing for providing a free copy to review. I wasn’t required to give a positive review just an honest one.

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Book Review: Deep & Wide by Andy Stanley

Great titles don’t always mean great books. In the case of Deep & Wide, great title means an even greater book. Churches that seek to reach those not connected to Jesus are often accused of being a mile wide and an inch deep. Andy Stanley makes a case for both deep and wide with a personal story of North Point’s start and even more sharing their secret sauce.

Andy Stanley is a great leader as well as communicator. He shows a prophetic flair in this book as well. He makes no apologies, holds nothing back. He states his case for creating churches unchurched people love to attend.

What Purpose Driven Church is to explaining God’s work at Saddleback through Rick Warren, Deep & Wide is the North Point story from personal pain to God’s divine work.

Yet the advantage of Deep & Wide is not only being inspired by North Point’s story, but the questions to wrestle with in one’s own church. For myself I found Deep & Wide convicting and challenging. Why do we do what we do? How could we do it better? And the most important question of all, what does God want us to do for our next step? The two key questions Andy gives for churches to wrestle with is:

1) What is the church?

2) Who is it for?

Deep & Wide doesn’t give specific answers as much as clear direction and valuable questions to find one’s own secret sauce that God has poured into us and to pour through us. As Andy says, “My goal isn’t for you to do what we do. But part of my goal is to push you to closely examine what you’re doing.” 

He pushed me — gently, firmly, and best of all in the right direction. I give Deep & Wide 5 out of 5 stars. Andy convinced me to be part of creating a church unchurched people love to attend, so that they can meet the same incredible Jesus I know and love, and even more knows and loves them.

Deep & Wide is a great resource for those who believe the church can and should be more in this world. For those who believe the call to the church is to connect all people to Jesus and not just those already in the church, Deep & Wide provides a tool for discussion and a guide for implementation.

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