Leading Happy

Where Leadership and Happiness Collide

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My 2016 Top 10 Book List for Leaders


I love books and I love reading. Maybe a little too much!

For me, it’s a hobby. People often ask me how I can read so many books, work, play, and raise a family. I really don’t have a good answer for that one. What I think people are actually saying is that they wish they could read more but don’t have the time. I feel ya.

I was actually that way too once. I was more of a do, do ,do and get the task list done kinda of leader. But I felt empty at the end of the day. I wanted to feel like I was growing. So I just started reading.

A few tricks I use to keep books in front of me are:

  • I have a few books next to my bed.
  • I have a few stacked next to my work computer.
  • I always leave one in my car.
  • I keep a Kindle in my back pocket.

So any place I am at, when I have a breathing moment, instead of hopping onto the world wide time sucker (my tongue-in-cheek name for the web), I read for at least 10 minutes. If the book or article catches my attention I keep reading for a time. If not, then I hop onto the web and catch up on what’s happening in the news or in my friend’s lives.

So to save you some time looking for good books, I have created a list of my top ten out of the hundreds and hundreds of books I have read over the last few years.

2016 TOP 10 LIST

One: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

This book might have saved my life. When you have to focus on being a minister, a husband, a charity leader, a dad, a son, a friend, a relative, a colleague…life gets crazy. Finding and doing what matters most is essential in the world of today. Read this book. Your sanity is worth it.

Two: Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler

I cannot say enough about how this book has helped me and dozens of others I have coached. Giving you the tools to have the most difficult conversations, and have them well, is indispensable in a leader’s library.

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

I have read and re-read this book for over a decade. Each time I try to implement more of the process. I am a slow learner or I might be more productive today! But I have the book and I keep on keepin on. If you want to bring order out of chaos to your work and home life, this book is a must!

Four: Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You by John Ortberg

I am pretty sure the title speaks on it’s own. If you gain the whole world, whether in the business, nonprofit, or church sector, but your soul is thirsty and longing for more, longing for peace, longing for quiet, then this book can help you along that journey. Ortberg is one of my top 10 authors of all time. Read everything he writes!

Five: Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown

I came across the book by chance. I was looking for a new read and simply liked the cover. Then I read some of the book, watched her TED Talk and made an immediate connection to the words of this book and the authors journey.

I have become a very open and vulnerable person over the last four years of having bone issues and surgeries. It is a tough process for a leader to have to go through trying times and have those who follow watch the process of pain, questions, doubt, fear, and so much more. Yet, Brene Brown has written an entire book about leading from a place of vulnerability. You will not regret this read!

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

I read this book years ago on a plane ride to see my brother in Seattle. It was the only time in my life I was actually willing the plane to taxi slower so I could finish the book. I have used the ideas for many years since.

This year I decided to dust it off and read it all over again. I cannot believe how much I never noticed the first read. (Perhaps it was the toddler kicking my seat for the five hours ride!) Anyway, I have already found new principles to add to my volunteer leadership ideas.

Seven: Communicating for a Change: Seven Key’s to Irresistible Communication by Andy Stanley 

I think I have had this book for years and never actually read it. I mean I heard so much about it, I felt like I had read it. So I decided to make sure I really knew what Andy Stanley (long time church and leadership writer I have followed) was communicating through this text. Yep, it was just as good as the talks, blogs, and other leaders I have heard quote Stanley out of this book.

Oh, and I realized that most of how I communicate was not effective.  So I gave the principles a shot in a recent sermon. I have never had such a response after a message in 15 years. Totally recommend this for anyone trying to communicate anything!

Eight: God Dreams: 12 Vision Templates for Finding and Focusing Your Church’s Future by Will Mancini 

I have been friend’s with Will since 2009. His first books, Church Unique changed the way I did church and ministry. I loved it so much, I drove from Lawton, Oklahoma to Houston, Texas to spend a day with him. How would you like a random guy showing up to hang out with you? Well, Will and his family invited me in and I have a memory I continue to hold dear to my heart, setting and dreaming about ministry possibilities around Will’s living room and talks as we walked Kema Boardwalk.

In God Dream’s, Will takes many of the Church Unique ideas (how his company Auxano walks churches through a transformational process) and applies those to how you can frame your vision to make a huge difference in your community. If you enjoy either book, you should look into taking your church through the process with one of Will’s amazing navigators.

Nine: Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney by Lee Cockerell

I have read this book on my own, with a team, and I have handed out a few copies. Not once have I ever heard someone say anything less than this book being amazing. The principles are fun and applicable to nay business or organization. Many of the stories go back to events at Disney, America’s theme park, so it grabs your attention easily.

I even tested out some of the principles when I went to Disney (when I probably should have focused on my daughters and wife). I was dumbfounded at how each and every time I saw the principles in this book brought to life. I was so amazed a year later I did a Disney Institute class on Business Excellence. So worth it!

Ten: When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself by Steve Corbertt and Brian Kikkert

Last but not least, I started working with charities and nonprofits this year and it’s been a steep learning curve. I have gotten my hands on a few different books, but this one is so worth the read. If you run a church with a compassion ministry, a charity that deals with the poor, or run a business that is generous to the surrounding community, do yourself a favor and read this. You may actually be hurting those your serve and placing your community in further poverty. Alleviating systemic poverty takes cooperative systemic systems. This book will guide you to the right path.

So what are your Top 10 Book Lists? If you have a blog where you posted your list, please feel free to post a link in the comments. If you simply want to add a great leadership read to the list and conversation, post below!

Leaders are readers…so get yours!

A Mile Wide: A Review



Hatmaker, Brandon. A Mile Wide: Trading a Shallow Religion for a Deeper Faith. Nashville: Nelson Books, 2016. 205pp. $22.99.

Brandon Hatmaker and his wife, Jen Hatmaker, have been making waves the last few years with their widely accessible and practical books. The topics are easily approachable with desired outcomes of living what you believe. Some books focus heavily on philosophy and higher thoughts while others are so practical that a bit more thinking would have proven advantageous. Brandon Hatmaker in A Mile Wide has provided both thought and practice for a life of rooted deep faith.

Basing his thoughts off the phrase first founded by Edgar Nye when describing the Platte River, “A mile wide and an inch deep,” Hatmaker discusses the downward slippery slope faith has been on for decades now. What was once a concern is now an epidemic worth of revolution. Too many have such a shallow faith and this faith has been feed not only by churches basing ministry and training on consumerist models, but on the people who continue to choose an easy path to faith.

Did not Jesus say the path was narrow?

Narrow doesn’t mean exclusive. All are invited. Narrow means that it will take work.

Back to the Platte River. Hatmaker refers to Nye, “Nye wrote that the river “has a very large circulation, but very little influence. It covers a good deal of ground, but is not deep. In some places it is a mile wide and three-quarters of an inch deep.” Christianity has a large number of adherents but is continually, year after year, losing influence.


Superficial faith only leads to superficial thoughts and actions. Hatmaker charges us to find a deeper faith to create more lasting and long term changes. To illustrate this, he utilizes Jesus’ discussion of the soils. He takes a familiar story and utilizes that familiarity to teach on what it would look like if we had deeper faith, deeper roots, and deeper change in our communities.

One of my biggest take always from the book was his family’s use of #FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). It resonated with me because my personality is one of going and doing all the time. If someone, like my wife, kiddos, and close mentors, didn’t remind me to slow down at times; I would continually go…go…go!

Why is that? Because I have this deep set fear of missing out on something. If we are honest we all do. It’s why we check email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, IMs, Pinterest, Internet Forums, and so much more every second we can because we do not want to miss out. We do not want to be the person with the dumbstruck face when someone reveals the news we missed. God forbid! So it drives us to stay connected.

Brandon Hatmaker hits the nail square on the head with this fear! He takes it even further. We stay busy for Jesus because we fear we will miss out on something. How can we set at his feet and know him and be taught by him? We have to be up and busy! This only leads to a mile wide of work and an inch depth of true discipleship.

In Chapter 3, he focuses on identity. What a needed topic for today. I have worked with youth, young adults, and young professionals for over a decade and this topic is up front more than any other. Where Hatmaker adds new thinking is on how to apply Colossians 3:1-4 to our identities, to have a more solid Gospel oriented identity.

Position One: We Died with Christ (Colossians 3:3a)

Position Two: We Are Hidden In Christ (Colossians 3:3b)

Position Three: We Live In Christ (Colossians 3:4a)

Position Four: We Are Raised with Christ and Glorified in Christ (Colossians 3:1, 4b)

“When hope in the gospel becomes our default, we will no longer find our identity in the things of this world; we will find it in Christ alone” (58).

Another highly challenging issue Hatmaker brings up is the idea that many if not most Christians actually do church well. We all know when to go to church. How to read our Bible. What small group to attend. Where to serve. Yet, we are not so good at more biblically rooted mandates. We struggle in our neighborhoods, with our private doubts, with our lake of transformation, and so on. These things rarely find time for us to focus and work on, unless of course it falls on the small group lesson calendar. We spend little time on them because we have no idea where to start. Again, this is where beginning with an identity in Christ guides us to begin to work on our weaknesses through quiet study, meditation, accountability, and planned thoughtfulness. All of these take more time, vulnerability, and depth, but they are of utmost importance.

“A shallow religion survives from event to event and program to program. A deeper faith is rooted in trusting relationships where permission is granted to struggle, fail, and take risks,” Hatmaker explains (113). For him, deeper community cannot be achieved without certain factors, and especially vulnerability, permission, and inclusivity. I agree, these are needed for any relationship to be more than surface or superficial. Being open and honest about who you are and allowing others to do the same is the most difficult and yet most rewarding thing you can do to form authentic community.

One other part that stood out for me was the seven steps he lays out for seeking justice. More and more people are moving away from what used to be labeled the social gospel and are joining social justice movements. These movements, some religious and some not, have grown exponentially over the last decade. Millennials are cause-based at their core and so this social justice movement will be around for a while. His seven steps are helpful in understanding how to seek justice on a personal level.

Step 1: View the Journey as Discipleship

Step 2: Settle Your Gospel Theology

Step 3: Learn to Love Mercy

Step 4: Gain a Biblical Definition of Justice

Step 5: Learn to Identify Need

Step 6: Encounter the Need

Step 7: Engage the Need in Community

All these steps are unpacked in the book, so to learn more…wait for it…buy the book! Honestly, for some, this chapter may be worth the purchase price. Trust me on this. Brandon’s previous book Barefoot Church is a true testament that he knows and lives out what he speaks about here.

Overall I give the book 5 stars!

The fact that ideas dealt with in other books are summarized here, newer and tested ideas are presented, and it’s all done under 200 pages makes this book not only approachable but easily used over and over again. Too many books are repetitive and weighted down with excess information. Not so here. Hatmaker’s switching back and forth from Scripture, theology/philosophy, to actions is also admirable. He could have chosen one or the other, but we should all be thankful he chose both! Further, each chapter has questions that can be utilized as a family or community to take their faith deeper.

I recommend this book to anyone who pastors or minsters to people. You must first deeper your own faith before helping others go deeper. I know that anyone who leads young people (teens and young adults) must read this and utilize it to raise up this caused-driven group of Millennials to make sure they join the right cause and do the work of those causes for that cause with Gospel-minded locus.

“Jesus’ people are made up of everyone. He loves near and far, the normal and the weird. Click To Tweet

Brandon Hatmaker couldn’t have stated it better than that. As we begin to truly love anyone and everyone, we will start to see how our faith has grown from wide and shallow to deep and rooted! The path is narrow. It won’t be easy. But it will be worth it.

Outlaw Christian by Jacqueline Bussie: A Review


Bussie, Jacqueline A. Outlaw Christian: Finding Authentic Faith by Breaking the “Rules.” Nashville: Nelson Books, 2016. 268pp. $16.99. 

What does it mean to be an outlaw christian? Bussie answers that question with her own definition,

Outlaw Christianity: (noun)

1. a new, life-giving faith for those who ache for a more authentic relationship with God and other people by no longer having to hide their doubt, anger, grief, scars, or questions

2. an honest, outside-the-law faith for those seeking a hope that really speaks to the world’s hurt

She does well to begin with her detailed definition, because her book then provides six lengthy chapters. I use lengthy as a fitting term as a few of the chapters are over 50 pages. These long chapters deal with the major issues Christians deal with today – doubting your faith, dealing with the elusive plan of God, and addressing your pain head on. All topics worthy of books, in and of their self. Finally, chapter six is almost a whopping hundred pages. Why so long? Again, Bussie is addressing the real issue we all long for – hope – and seven ways to find it.

Just to be clear, being an outlaw christian has nothing to do with breaking good rules, but breaking the rules established by inadequate application of scripture by modern society. For example, breaking the rule of not arguing with God when you are angry. Many Christians have been taught to hold in their feelings and to keep their doubts inside their heads. Good meaning Christians may not have meant this for bad, yet psychology has shown us that holding in our doubts, fears, and pains, can lead to all sorts of mental and physical illnesses. Therefore, to be healthy in your beliefs is to break the rules that hurt, not help. This behavior is deviant (to play off the bestselling book series) and yet necessary.

outlaw-christian-coverDr. Bussie’s story telling is compelling and you can easily follow along with her theology without pain of looking through old theological tombs. It is truly a gift to write about tough theological issues, but to do so with openness, honesty, and even humility is a god-given calling. Her work among students has kept her theology down-to-earth, yet her profession as a teacher keeps her mind engaged in academic rigor. This books gives you the best of both worlds wrapped up in warm and engaging stories.

I personally engaged with this book because of much of the pain I have dealt with in my life. As a pastor, I even taught on health and wellness and the God who protects us from such things. I did all of that with full honesty, yet naively. Then 2011 rolled around and I started a journey of pain, bones degeneration issues, starting with the replacement of both my hips. One replacement failed and was redone and I have had cervical fusion in two locations in my neck since then. As 2017 approaches I still face multiple surgeries. All in all, lots of pain, lots of questions, lots of time laying in a bed thinking, and years of searching and seeking answers.

Chapter five deals with the topic of dealing with our story and our pain and seeing how it all draws us closer not further from God. But we have to break the law of, “Never tell your real story. Vulnerability is weakness,” and become Christian Outlaw. In Bussie’s continual and beautiful prose,

“Suffering is dizzying. When someone you love is suffering deeply, you usually cannot make the world stop spinning out of control for her, nor is that even what she expects from you. Instead, she wants you to understand that she cannot stand up without leaning up against you. Rather than endless philosophizing or wordy defenses of God, we need to offer up our arms.” (page 151)

Anyone who has gone through anything painful knows these words ring true. God hasn’t failed us. Scripture hasn’t failed us. Modern society and its erroneous religious beliefs have failed us. I know I focused on pain and suffering, but each chapter is written with care and vulnerability. This is incredibly refreshing.

Although Outlaw Christian is not unique in the topics it addresses, its approach to being both theologically sound and approachable places it above other books on said topics. Honestly, I would relate her to a female version of Tim Keller. Keller’s books are packed with theology, yet in a way that any Christian can approach, understand, and apply. I look forward to more books to come from Bussie.

I highly recommend this book to any pastor, especially those that deal with young adults or even thirty-somethings. These age brackets often deal with those who are dealing with the collapse of a childhood belief system and are either about to eject from the faith or sadly trudge along with a weakened belief system always on the edge of breakdown. Outlaw Christian offers another way, a better way, to reevaluate one’s faith and build an even stronger, and dare I say, authentic.

In a world seeking the authentic, may the hurting in the church learn that sometimes being a good Christian requires the behavior of an outlaw, breaking the law to find a truer and better way of life!  That is how to find authentic faith today!

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