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Posts from the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Dare to Serve

Dare to Serve Book Photo

I just finished one of the most inspiring leadership books I’ve read in a long time – Dare to Serve – How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others by Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Inc. It’s so good that it now sits on my book shelf right next to my signed copy of Max De Pree’s leadership classic – Leadership is an Art.

So what makes this book so inspiring, engaging and helpful?

First, is Cheryl’s thesis – “When you choose to humbly serve others and courageously lead them to daring destinations, the team will give you their very best performance” p. 9. Cheryl’s value based, people centered leadership philosophy is not only right on, it’s a desperately needed message in the celebrity driven, leader centered culture found in so many organizations today.

Second, there’s Cheryl’s courage. Think about it, how many CEO’s of a multi-billion dollar publicly traded company, would dare to proclaim such a contrarian idea as one that says – you can lead teams to great performance by serving them? And, of course, courage in others is always inspiring.

Third, Cheryl is not only a student of leadership, she is a leader. Her book isn’t filled with theories but reflects what she’s learned by actually leading people and organizations. Which means this book is a case study in leadership and, specifically, in leading the turnaround of a struggling organization.

Finally, I’ve spent some time with Cheryl, so I can vouch for the fact that, as a leader and, more importantly as a person, she’s the real deal, which only affirms that her book is the real deal.

So if you’re a leader of any kind or aspire to be one, Dare to Serve gives you a great roadmap to become a better leader. It will inspire you to lead humbly and courageously so that you and your team will win.

The Great Evangelical Recession

The Great Evangelical RecessionSometimes there are books we just need to read. We read them even if they’re not entertaining, up – lifting, or full of new information, but because we need to hear the message straight up, in a clear and concise way. This describes John Dickerson’s recent book Great Evangelical Recession, The: 6 Factors That Will Crash the American Church…and How to Prepare.

This is a book that needs to be read by Christian leaders and by anyone who cares about the Church.

Dickerson is an award-winning journalist turned pastor who’s applied his journalistic research skills to identifying major movements within the Evangelical Church today and diagnosing their impact on its future. Then, with a clear and engaging writing style, accompanied by ability to synthesis vast amounts of data and research, Dickerson, outlines 6 significant trends that he believes will lead to an “Evangelical recession”. In addition, he also spells out 6 remedies the Church can take to either change the course of these trends or to navigate effectively through them.

Be warned these 6 trends may shock you. They’re shocking because of the strong case Dickerson builds for each one. They’re also shocking because many of us live inside the Evangelical bubble so do not see ourselves clearly in the context of the rest of the world (I read most of the book on a plane to New York City. As I walked the streets of Manhattan I had no doubt that Christians living in New York would wholeheartedly agree with Dickerson’s conclusions). Yet I also have to admit, at some intuitive level, I’ve known these trends were a reality so part of my shock was that they also confirmed my worst fears.

Amazingly, even with Dickerson’s strong research, I found some reviewers of the book believing Dickerson’s got it wrong, that his assessments are to negative. Ironically many of these folks live and work in places other than cities like New York; instead they live in places such as Colorado Springs, Grand Rapids, or countless communities in the Bible Belt. Personally I’ve concluded that even if Dickerson has over stated his case 50% (which I don’t believe he has), the trends would still demand the prayerful self-assessment by the Church and its leaders. So as a result, our Board and Senior Leaders are reading it, as well as we’re making it available to all our staff and supporters who may want to read it.

So my recommendation is that you make Great Evangelical Recession, The: 6 Factors That Will Crash the American Church…and How to Prepare one of your summer reads. Read it with an open mind and a willing heart to hear the hard realities of our world. Then be prepared to do your part to help the Church effectively navigate through these trends.

The Problems of Christian Leadership

Back in 1985 evangelist, teacher, and leader, John Stott, gave four messages to the staff of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students in Quito, Ecuador. Thankfully Inter Varsity Press recently published these messages in a 95 page book titled The Problems of Christian Leadership.

As a reader of many of the Stott’s books I wasted no time in picking this one up and diving in. I was not disappointed. Stott address four common problems, or challenges, Christian leaders face in their work –

The Problem of Discouragement

The Problem of Self-Discipline

The Problem of Relationships

The Problem of Youth

Though I must admit, before I started the book, I wondered if these four problems were still the most pressing challenges facing Christian leaders today. But as I read and reflected on my leadership experience as well as those of others, I realized these issues are as real today as they were 30 years ago.

But the best part of Stott’s teaching isn’t just identifying these seemingly timeless problems it’s in the wisdom and practical advice he brings to each. The book is simply a leadership guide for tackling each of these four problems. For example, the reminder  in the chapter titled The Problem of Self-Discipline, of the importance in making regular time away from daily work for prayer, reflection, and tasks requiring quiet and focus caused me to act. I’ve now blocked out a day a month in my calendar to make this focused time a reality.

So, if you’re looking for or in need of a solid, practical and inspiring book on authentic leadership, read The Problems of Christian Leadership. You’ll be blessed with 300 pages worth of insight and inspiration packed into a 95 page book.

Boundaries for Leaders – Results, Relationships, and being Ridiculously in Charge

boundaries for leadersEvery leader has a particular pair of glasses they tend to see their world through. It’s this perspective that shapes their leadership approach and ultimately the teams and organizations they lead. Some leaders see the world through market and customer glasses, others through financial glasses, yet others through product and service glasses.

The first glasses I pick up are the people glasses. I see every organization, its mission and performance, in terms of people. I believe it is people who create products, who understand markets, relate to customers and ultimately produce financial results. People are the center of my leadership world.

This is why I’m drawn to writers and consultants who see the world in this same way. For example I’m a fan of Dr. Henry Cloud and his books. He sees leadership and organizations through people glasses. So when he publishes a new book I immediately read it, looking for the nuggets I can apply in my leadership context.

In his most recent book, Boundaries for Leaders, Dr. Cloud provides a helpful combination of neuroscience, psychology, leadership and common sense with real life illustrations from his work.

For example, he makes the case that leaders need to lead in such a way that it aligns with how people’s brains work. People’s brains need to have three “executive functions” or processes to achieve any goal, vision or objective be it driving a car or leading an organization. They are:

  1. Attention: the ability to focus on the right things
  2. Inhibition: the ability to avoid the things that keep us from achieving our goals
  3. Working memory: retain and access to the right information in order to make decisions and take action

This new insight led me to a helpful personal leadership evaluation by asking myself the following three questions:

“Do I keep our team focus on the right things?”

“Am I helping our team avoid distractions from the right things?”

“Does our team have access to the right information at the right time to do what they need to do?

Now it’s simply up to me to have the Attention, Inhibition, and Working memory necessary to make the right changes in these areas for the benefit our people and ultimately for the benefit of SpringHill.

Prayers and Goals

The Circle MakerMy good friend, Terry Prisk, recommended (or more accurately he insisted) I read Mark Batterson’s book The Circle Maker. If you’re not familiar with it, The Circle Maker is a practical and inspirational book about prayer.

Now I’ll admit I wasn’t sure the world (nor I) needed another book on prayer. I wondered to myself “what could someone possibly say about prayer that hasn’t already been said before?” But both because Terry insisted and because I set a personal goal to spend more time this year in prayer I picked up a copy of The Circle Maker and moved it to the top of my reading list.

And now that I’ve finished it, let me just say that I’m deeply thankful for Terry’s insistence and for Batterson’s insight. The Circle Maker shows the powerful connection between our dreams and goals and the spiritual discipline of prayer. As a goal driven person, this was the fresh perspective I needed and, more importantly, the inspiration my prayer life required.

Now, before you jump to the conclusion that The Circle Maker is a book that teaches a form of “name it claim” theology, let me assure you it’s not. Batterson doesn’t take us there. Instead he insists that “Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers. God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He’s offended by anything less.” Yet he also is crystal clear that “God is not a genie in a bottle, your wish is not His command.” Then he goes on to say “His command better be your wish. If not you won’t be drawing prayer circles; you’ll end up walking in circles.”

So let me be a little like my friend Terry and ask you to consider skipping you traditional summer paperback and instead pick of a copy of The Circle Maker, it may be just the inspiration you need to take your prayer life to a new place.

Resurrection

Florida flowers“O God of my Exodus,

Great was the joy of Israel’s sons,

    when Egypt died upon the shore,

    Far greater the joy

    when the Redeemer’s foe lay crushed

    in the dust.

Jesus strides forth as victor,

    conqueror of death, hell, and all opposing

    might;

He bursts the bands of death,

    tramples the powers of darkness down,

    and lives for ever.

He, my gracious surety,

    apprehended for payment of my debt,

    comes forth from the prison house of the grave

    free, and triumphant over sin, Satan, and death.

Show me herein the proof that his vicarious offering

    is accepted,

    that the claims of justice are satisfied,

    that the devil’s scepter is shivered,

    that his wrongful throne is leveled.

Give me the assurance that in Christ I died,

    in him I rose,

    in his life I live, in his victory I triumph,

    in his ascension I shall be glorified.

Adorable Redeemer,

    thou who wast lifted up upon a cross

    art ascended to highest heaven.

Thou, who as Man of sorrows

    wast crowned with thrones,

    art now as Lord of life wreathed with glory.

Once, no shame more deep than thine,

    no agony more bitter,

    no death more cruel.

Now, no exaltation more high,

    no life more glorious,

    no advocate more effective.

Thou art in the triumph car leading captive

    thine enemies behind thee.

What more could be done than thou hast done!

    Thy death is my life,

    thy resurrection my peace,

    thy ascension my hope,

    thy prayers my comfort.”

From The Valley of Vision, edited by Arthur Bennett for The Banner of Truth Trust

Love Lustres at Calvary

Photo Jan 22, 7 39 20 AM“My Father,

Enlarge my heart, warm my affections,

    open my lips,

Supply words that proclaim ‘Love lustres at Calvary.’

There grace removes my burdens and heaps them

    on thy Son,

made a transgressor, a curse, a sin for me;

There the sword of thy justice smote the man,

    Thy fellow;

There thy infinite attributes were magnified,

    and infinite atonement made;

There infinite punishment was due,

    and infinite punishment was endured.

Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy,

    cast off that I might be brought in,

    trodden down as an enemy

        that I might be welcomed as a friend,

    surrendered to hell’s worst

        that I might attain heaven’s best,

    stripped that I might be clothed,

    wounded that I might be healed,

    athirst that I might drink,

    tormented that I might be comforted,

    made a shame that I might inherit glory,

    entered darkness that I might have eternal light.

My Savior wept that all tears might be wiped

    from my eyes,

    groaned that I might have endless song,

    endured pain that I might have unfading health,

    bore a thorny crown that I might have

        a glory – diadem,

    bowed his head that I might uplift mine,

    experienced reproach that I might receive

        welcome,

    closed his eyes in death that I might gaze

        on unclouded brightness,

    expired that I might for ever live.

Oh Father, who spared not thine only Son that thou

    mightiest spare me,

All this transfer thy love designed and

accomplished;

Help me adore thee by lips and life.

Oh that my every breath might be ecstatic praise,

    my every step buoyant with delight, as I see my

        enemies crushed,

    Satan baffled, defeated, destroyed,

    sin buried in the ocean of reconciling blood,

    hell’s gates closed, heaven’s portal open.

Go forth, O conquering God, and show me

    the cross, mighty to subdue, comfort and save.”

From The Valley of Vision, edited by Arthur Bennett for The Banner of Truth Trust

Why I’m Reading Harry Potter


Over Christmas our family discussed our favorite childhood books. I shared that my favorite ones are the Chronicles of Narnia. Our kids, on the other hand, all agreed that their favorite books are the Harry Potter series.

Then our daughter Christina said something that started me thinking, she said “I’m going to read all the Harry Potter books to my kids, just like you did, Dad, when you read us the entire Chronicle of Narnia book”. This means not only did R.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter series influence my kids; they’ll most likely influence our grandkids.

Then Christina said, “Dad, you’ve never read Harry Potter have you?”

Embarrassed I had to answer “No Christina, I haven’t”

Then I concluded that I need too.

Because if I haven’t read the one book series that ignited our kids love of reading, and also happens to be one of largest selling children’s books in history, as well creating so much controversy in some Christian circles, and now appears to be the books my future grandchildren will have read to them, then I haven’t done my job as a parent, future grandparent, and as leader of a Christian youth ministry.

So, I’m reading them now.

I’m into the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and I’ll I’m really enjoying them. I now understand why so many kids love these book. I also have to admit, I feel less guilty about allowing our kids to read books about witches and wizards because, though the stories are not perfect and do have the message that my beloved Chronicles of Narnia have, they are fun, wholesome, and show clear lines between good and evil.

So, though it’s a little late for my kids, I’m reading them for my grandkids, so that in some future family conversation about books I’ll be able to answer my grandkids’ question, “yes, I’ve read all the Harry Potter books.”

The Unrelenting Approach

On the last Sunday worship of summer camp I spoke to our Michigan overnight staff on Luke 15:1-10 focusing on the parables about the lost sheep and the lost coin. We talked specifically about the “unrelenting approach” of God when we’re lost.

I ended the message with one of my favorite CS Lewis quotes found in his book Surprised by Joy, the story of his spiritual journey and his conversion to Christianity. It captures well this “unrelenting approach” of God.

“You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance to escape?….The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.”

C.S. Lewis on Reading Old Books

C.S. Lewis got it right in his assessment of benefits and the necessity of reading old books. Now I just need to do a better job of following his advice.

“There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should be content himself with the modern books….This mistaken preference for the modern books and this shyness of the old ones is nowhere more rampant than in theology….Now this seems to me to be topsy-turvy. Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old….it is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read on old one to every three new ones….We all…need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books….We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century…lies where we have never suspected it….None of us can fully escape this blindness….The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.”

Quoted by John Piper in God’s Passion for His Glory, from C.S. Lewis’ “On Reading of Old Books” in God in the Dock

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