Leaders read.  Learners read.  People who recognize they don’t have the market cornered on any particular subject read.  It sharpens us.  It enlightens us.  It challenges us.  It refreshes us.  It gives us new perspective.

Some of you may be stuck in a rut in how you read a book.  When you hear of others reading a lot, you think, “It must be nice to have that much time on your hands.”  The problem isn’t your amount of time available to read.  It’s probably that you don’t know how to read a book.  A couple of posts that might help you are, How Do Leaders Read So Much? and How To Read A Book In An Hour.

I set a goal for 2012 to read 40 books, including the books I had to read for a Global Leadership group that I am in.  After compiling the list of books that I truly read, I think I hit my goal, even though there are only 31 books on this list.  The others were either not worth the time to write a brief paragraph on, or were too specific in the content that I thought they wouldn’t be valuable to list here.

If you’ve read a book recently that you would recommend, please leave a comment below this post.  I am beginning to compile a list to begin 2013.

So here are the books I read in 2012, in no particular order.  Enjoy.

31. Conviction to Lead, The: 25 Principles for Leadership that Matters by Albert Mohler – I read on someone’s blog that this was their favorite book on leadership they had ever read.  I wouldn’t go that far, but I did enjoy it.  While reading it I felt like today’s leader should be perfect, and the weight of that became unbearable.  However, if you could approach this book as a very helpful tool to give you some solid principles to consider as you lead, I think you’ll find this book very helpful.

“No organization that exists simply for itself is worth leading. Leaders want to lead organizations and movements that make a difference—that fill a need and solve real problems. That story frames the mission and identity of the organization, and explains why you give your life to it. The excellent leader is the steward-in-chief of that story, and the leader’s chief responsibilities flow from this stewardship. Leadership comes down to protecting the story, bringing others into the story, and keeping the organization accountable to the story. The leader tells the story over and over again, refining it, updating it, and driving it home” (Location 461).

30. Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ by Dallas Willard – This is a meaty book.  It is a refreshing reminder that what we need is not simply character improvement, but a renovation of our heart.  It really is one of those books that needs to come off the shelf every so often just to chew on some of its content.  Very good.

“Spiritual formation in Christ is the process by which one moves and is moved from self-worship to Christ-centered self-denial as a general condition of life in God’s present and eternal kingdom” (77).

29. Leadership as an Identity: The Four Traits of Those Who Wield Lasting Influence by Crawford W. Loritts – This is one of those books that is good to come back to over and over to grasp many of the points he brings up.  I’ve enjoyed reading through my highlights of this book throughout the year.

“It is one thing to be content; it’s quite another to be complacent. It becomes easy to ignore the promptings of the Spirit of God to embrace God’s next assignment. We rationalize and settle into a comfortable disobedience. Gradually our fruit diminishes, our impact wanes, and we are left wondering, ‘What happened … What’s missing?'” (Location 2398).

28. A Cross-Shaped Gospel: Reconciling Heaven and Earth by Bryan Loritts – Bryan is a personal friend, so it might be tough knocking his book here.  But, I will tell you, I really enjoyed this book.  Many people think in terms of the Gospel being a vertical relationship, but there is much in the Scriptures about the impact of the Gospel on others – the lateral relationship.

“Racial diversity is not an essential for salvation; the gospel of Jesus Christ is. However, where the gospel is truly and authentically preached and lived, we should expect to see diversity. This should be a natural fruit of the gospel, part of that horizontal axis of the cross that reaches into lives in the Christian community as well as the lives of the spiritually lost” (Location 869).

27. How Do You Kill 11 Million People?: Why the Truth Matters More Than You Think by Andy Andrews – The title alone made me but this book.  The book can be read in under an hour.  Its central point makes you think.

“In my book The Final Summit, Abraham Lincoln says to Joan of Arc, “Does adversity build character? . . . It does not. Almost all people can stand adversity of one sort or another. If you want to test a person’s character, give him power.” Continuing, Lincoln says, “Now, since we are concerning ourselves here with the very future of humanity, let me add one thing more. Power corrupts. Trust me on this. And because power corrupts, humanity’s need for those in power to be of high character increases as the importance of the position of leadership increases” (Location 393).

26. Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt – I’ve enjoyed Michael Hyatt’s blog for a few years, although he seems to have become more focused recently on a podcast that I’ve yet to listen to.  This book is a compilation of some blog posts on building a “tribe” of sorts, to borrow Seth Godin’s terminology.  If interested, this book could be read sporadically in short bites.

“It’s not about ego or being the center of attention. It is about having something of value to others and finding the most powerful way of getting that message to others who can benefit from it” (Location 307).

25. Family Shepherds: Calling and Equipping Men to Lead Their Homes by Voddie Baucham Jr. – Voddie is a dynamic speaker and author.  He brings up some really good points in this book.  He takes many to an extreme though, maybe to make a point, but I wouldn’t agree with the level to which he brings them.  I’d still recommend this book overall.

“Family shepherds cannot afford to be ignorant concerning these matters. We must know the difference between law and gospel. We must know the difference between committing ourselves to leadership in our families because it’s “right,” and looking to Christ as the Good Shepherd who, by his grace, will conform us to the will of his Father as we trust and obey him. We must also know the difference between condemning our family with the law and shepherding them with the gospel. We must know the difference between what the gospel requires and what the gospel produces” (Location 800).

24. Leadership Can Be Taught: A Bold Approach for a Complex World by Sharon Daloz Parks – To tell you the truth, I don’t even remember reading this book.  As I look over my highlighted areas, it still isn’t coming back to me.  I guess that speaks for itself.

“Leadership can (and often must) be learned by those who would hope to practice it” (Location 19).

23. Orphanology: Awakening to Gospel-Centered Adoption and Orphan Care by Tony Merida – This author beat me to the punch in writing this book.  By using a combination of Scripture, the author’s insights, and stories of other people, I thought the message of this book was clearly delivered.

“Whether or not you can have biological children really has nothing to do with the Christian’s call to do orphan care. Further, we don’t see adoption merely as plan B and only for parents who can’t have biological children. Rather, we see both orphan care and adoption as expressions of practical Christianity” (Location 807).

22. Love Works: Seven Timeless Principles for Effective Leaders by Joel Manby – I loved parts of this book.  There are great ideas for all leaders about leading your organization.  I thought the humility of the author is reflected in this book, as well as the interviews I heard him give as he promoted it.

“In the context of leading with love, embracing patience is not about ignoring poor performance. Ever. No experienced leader would tolerate that. When leading with love, the principle of patience means behaving with self-control in difficult situations” (Location 415).

21. Discipleship Essentials: A Guide to Building Your Life In Christ by Greg Ogden – A mentor of mine recommended this book to me.  As I was beginning to disciple a guy this year, I picked this up to see what the author had to say.  He has developed a good, thorough philosophy of discipleship that he unfolds in this book.  For those are are new to discipleship, this book would be a helpful guide for you.

“Transformation occurs when we grapple with the truth of God’s Word in the context of transparent relationships” (Location 80).

20. The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations – I thought this book was ok.  I felt the author put too much emphasis on being a leaderless organization only to end up saying he felt like leadership was necessary to some extent at the end of the book.  Candidly, I put the book down before I finished it, and then came back to it later to see how he ended it.

“This book is about what happens when there’s no one in charge. It’s about what happens when there’s no hierarchy. You’d think there would be disorder, even chaos. But in many arenas, a lack of traditional leadership is giving rise to powerful groups that are turning industry and society upside down” (Location 131).

19. Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Can Imagine by Max Lucado.  I’m a sucker for anything written about grace.  When I saw Max coming out with a book on it, I new I needed to pick it up.  It was classic Max Lucado; many stories that help display biblical truth in a way that people will understand it.

“Grace is God as heart surgeon, cracking open your chest, removing your heart—poisoned as it is with pride and pain—and replacing it with his own. Rather than tell you to change, he creates the change. Do you clean up so he can accept you? No, he accepts you and begins cleaning you up” (Location 373).

18. A Scandalous Freedom: The Radical Nature of the Gospel by Steve Brown – This book was refreshing in its content.  I thought it was a long and somewhat repetitive, but I would still recommend it.  Great truth found in it.

“New Christians come to our family, excited about their newfound freedom and joy. Then we tell the new Christians that while Jesus gave them something wonderful, they need to know a few things. Then we put a saddle on that horse and ride it until death. When the new Christians try to get out from under the burden of rules, regulations, and righteousness, we shame them into continuing” (Location 289).

17. Colors of Hope: Becoming People of Mercy, Justice and Love by Richard Dahlstrom – Last summer I was speaking at the same event as this author.  After hearing some of the topics he spoke on, I picked up his book.  Glad I did.  He brings the reality of the new covenant for us as believers and talks about how we live out of that.  So good.

“The stunning reality of Jesus’ invitation is that I’m called to more, much more, than simply surviving, protecting my assets and reputation while, as a footnote, I drop a little money in the offering and tell my neighbors Jesus died for them. Such a small view of God’s activity in my life, and God’s calling on my days, is part of the reason so many find Christianity boring” (Location 186).

16. The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity by Soong-Chan Rah – What started out as an assignment for the Global Leadership group that I am in quickly turned into an interesting read for me.  This isn’t leisure reading, but sheds some light on some cultural norms within the church in America.

“The phrase ‘captivity of the church’ points to the danger of the church being defined by an influence other than the Scriptures.  The church remains the church, but we more accurately reflect the culture around us rather than the characteristics of the bride of Christ” (21).

15. Connecting Church and Home by Dr. Tim Kimmel – This book hasn’t been released yet.  It will come out in the middle of February.  I read the manuscript this year and found it very helpful for parents and pastors that want to team up in raising their kids to connect to Jesus.

“This book is about how a family leverages its collective assets to raise the spiritual stock value of its local church…and how a local church leverages its collective assets to raise the spiritual stock value of its families – and both of these done with the combined goal of enhancing God’s power and presence within our culture.  There’s a reason why it would be nice if both families and churches got on the same page.  We need each other” (3).

14. The Third Conversion by R. Scott Rodin – Another quick read.  This novellete is similar to books by Patrick Lencioni.  If you are involved in fundraising at all, this is a great book to read to help establish your philosophy of how you will do it.

“[Staff] must understand and be committed to a biblical approach to raising resources for the ministry.  This means a focus on being used by the Holy Spirit to help their ministry supporters develop hearts that are rich toward God” (11).

13. The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization by Peter Drucker and others – What a great, short book. Every pastor or ministry leader ought to take an hour or two and read this book.  The five questions are very simplistic, which makes it easy to think through for your organization.

“For years, most nonprofits felt that good intentions were by themselves enough.  But today, we know that because we don’t have a bottom line, we have to manage better than for-profit business.  We have to have discipline rooted in our mission.  We have to manage our limited resources of people and money for maximum effectiveness.  And we have to think through very clearly what results are for our organization” (2).

12. Experiencing The Trinity by Darrell W. Johnson – If you can get past the lame cover, you’ll enjoy this quick read.  As well, you’ll probably be surprised to realize you aren’t walking in the fullness of the Trinity.

“When we say ‘yes’ to Jesus as Savior and Lord, we are immersed into the love and life of God the Father; and are immersed into the grace and truth of God the Son; and we are immersed into the power and purity of God the Spirit” (54).

11. Stuck: Navigating the Transitions of Life and Leadership by Terry B. Walling – This is a great book for those going through transition in life.  Better yet, it would be a good read for anyone, because at some point you will go through a major transition, and this book would help you understand what is going on.

“Transitions occur in the lives of business people, vocational ministers, housewives, students, young and old, church and non-churched alike.  For Christ-followers, something more is occurring, beyond just a change in career direction or the need for new scenery.  God does some of his most important formation work during the transition times of his followers.” (3)

10. Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood by Dennis Rainey – I was able to have lunch with the author recently, and discovered we shared a passion for this message.  The book is clear, and reads much like a message that would be given on the topic.  It is well worth the time to read for dads.

“One of the tragedies of our day is that too many boys are growing up without the guidance of a father, or another man, to show them what it looks like to do away with that boyhood stuff.  As a result, they often move into adolescence and then adulthood looking like men but still speaking, reasoning, and behaving like boys.” (44)

9. Good to Great and the Social Sectors: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great by Jim Collins – I have read this book so many times, some have referred to it as my “second Bible.”  I think the author does such a good job challenging ministries and non-profits to operate with excellence.

“In the social sectors, the critical question is not ‘How much money do we make per dollar of invested capital?’ but ‘How effectively do we deliver on our mission and make a distinctive impact, relative to our resources?'” (5)

8. Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling by Andy Crouch – This book was part of my required reading for a Global Leadership cohort I am in.  I opened it thinking it would be dry, but walked away from it with some really good nuggets.

“So in a way the Creator’s greatest gift to his creation is the gift of structure-not a structure which locks the world, let alone the Creator himself, into eternal mechanical repetition, but a structure which provides freedom. And those who are made in his image will also be both creators and rulers.” (Location 177)

7. Leadership an an Identity: The Four Traits of Those Who Wield Lasting Influence by Crawford Loritts – I think Crawford did a really good job with this, big, broad topic of leadership.  The book was a good mixture of theory, philosophy and practical tools to help leaders be more effective.

“We need to stop making idols out of leaders and stop idolizing the position of leadership. We need to turn down the volume and put leadership in context. As followers of Christ, we should not parrot a culture that celebrates image, stature, and position, nor should we tout leadership as the pathway to recognition and fame.” (Location 267)

6. Future Men: Raising Boys to Fight Giants by Douglas Wilson – This book is chalk full of good advice for raising sons.  I highly recommend it.

“Men who follow Jesus Christ, the dragon-slayer, must themselves become lesser dragon-slayers. And this is why it is absolutely essential for boys to play with wooden swords and plastic guns. Boys have a deep need to have something to defend, something to represent in battle.”

5. What to Ask the Person in the Mirror: Critical Questions for Becoming a More Effective Leader and Reaching Your Potential by Robert Steven Kaplan – The author is a professor of management practice at Harvard Business School.  This book is highly practical, and is a fairly easy read.  He addresses what you would expect: time management, learning to ask the right questions, vision, delegation, etc.  I thought Chapter 7: Reaching Your Potential had some excellent points.

“One of the ongoing challenges of being an effective leader, over a sustained period of time, is to make the course corrections to your leadership style that are necessary to keep the organization on track and yet fit your personality and distinctive traits” (201).

4. Autobiography of George Muller – As I expected, I walked away from this book challenged in my faith.  This book chronicled the life of George Muller, and how he lived each and every day through faith in God.  He led ministries by faith, made decisions by faith. I had to stop and pray that God would increase the mustard seed size of my faith.  I didn’t really care for the style of this book, though.  It was just a compilation of journal entries that became somewhat repetitive.  He didn’t have, then he prayed, and God provided.

“If the preacher strives to speak according to the rules of this world, he may please many, particularly those who have a literary taste. But he is less likely to become an instrument in the hands of God for the conversion of sinners or for the building up of the saints. Neither eloquence nor depth of thought makes a truly great preacher. Only a life of prayer and meditation will render him a vessel ready for the Master’s use and fit to be employed in the conversion of sinners and in the edification of the saints” (Location 248).

3. Leading from the Second Chair: Serving Your Church, Fulfilling Your Role, and Realizing Your Dreams by Mike Bonem & Roger Patterson – This was my second time to go through this book.  This time I didn’t just read it, but studied it.  Then, I was able to meet weekly with one of the authors, Mike Bonem.  Each week, Mike asked me questions that allowed me to sharpen my focus as a leader.  This book has sound some wisdom for both first and second chair leaders.

“Do you want true second chair leaders in your organization? Encourage them to be leaders.  Clarify your role and theirs.  Give them the freedom to lead, to take initiative, and to make some mistakes”  (65).

2. Mentoring Leaders: Wisdom for Developing Character, Calling, and Competency by Carson Pue – Carson Pue, the founder of Arrow Leadership wrote this book about six years ago.  He offers a good, systematic approach to leading, as well as personal advice to leaders.

“As I have worked alongside leaders for more than twenty-five years, the most effective ones have never lost sight of their core passion. Even the most prominent leaders will tell you, in a simple sentence, the focus of their personal mission. It never includes technology. All of these other new opportunities are by-products that bleed out of their primary focus. Ministry leads. Technology and opportunity follow” (Location 496).

1. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas – Lengthy, but good biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  A good read to be inspired of what having a spiritual backbone looks like in turbulent times.

“He differentiated between Christianity as a religion like all others – which attempt but fail to make an ethical way for man to climb to heaven of his own accord – and following Christ, who demands everything, including our very lives” (84).

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