You’ve probably heard the saying, “Leaders are readers.”  I couldn’t agree more!  I would add that what you read matters.  I’ve read some books that have been utterly transformational, inspiring, and eye-opening.  I’ve also read some books that were–to put it nicely–a waste of time.

I don’t want you to waste your time!  So here’s a list of some of the best books I’ve read.  If you see any in this list that you haven’t read yet, get these books ASAP and start reading!

Transformational Leadership

Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading, by Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky

  • Favorite Quote:  “People do not resist change, per se.  People resist loss.”

Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory, by Tod Bolsinger

  • Favorite Quote:  “We are in uncharted terrain trying to lead dying churches into a post-Christian culture that now considers the church an optional, out of touch and irrelevant relic of the past.”

The Emotionally Healthy Leader: How Transforming Your Inner Life Will Deeply Transform Your Church, Team, and the World, by Peter Scazzero

  • Favorite Quote:  “Minimally transformed leaders will always result in minimally transformed teams doing minimally transforming ministry.”

A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, by Edwin Friedman

  • Favorite Quote:  “The pursuit of data, in almost any field, has come to resemble a form of substance abuse, accompanied by all the usual problems of addictions: self-doubt, denial, temptation, relapse, and withdrawal.  Leadership training programs this wind up in the codependent position of enablers, with publishers often in the role of ‘suppliers.’”

In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, by Henri Nouwen

  • Favorite Quote:  “If there is any focus that the Christian leader of the future will need, it is the discipline of dwelling in the presence of the One who keeps asking us, ‘Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?'”

Spiritual Formation

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: It’s impossible to Be Spiritually Mature While Remaining Emotionally Immature, by Peter Scazzero

  • Favorite Quote:  “The call to emotionally healthy spirituality is a call to a radical, countercultural life.  It is a call to intentionality, rhythm, and expectation of a life transformed by the risen Christ with the power to  see through the illusions and pretense of our world.”

Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World, by Henri Nouwen

  • Favorite Quote:  “Yes, there is that voice, the voice that speaks from above and from within and that whispers softly or declares loudly: ‘You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests.’  It certainly is not easy to hear that voice in a world filled with voices that should: ‘You are not good, you are ugly; you are worthless; you are despicable, you are nobody–unless you can demonstrate the opposite.'”

Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming, by Henri Nouwen

  • Favorite Quote:  “Here is the God I want to believe in: a Father who, from the beginning of creation, has stretched out his arms in merciful blessing, never forcing himself on anyone, but always waiting; never letting his arms drop down in despair, but always hoping that his children will return so that he can speak words of love to them and let his tired arms rest on their shoulders.  His only desire is to bless.”

Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging, by Brennan Manning

  • Favorite Quote:  “If John were to be asked, ‘What is your primary identity, your most coherent sense of yourself?’ he would not reply, ‘I am a disciple, an apostle, an evangelist,’ but ‘I am the one Jesus loves.’”

Surrender to Love: Discovering the Heart of Christian Spirituality, by David Benner

  • Favorite Quote:  “Regardless of what you have come to believe about God based on your life experience, the truth is that when God thinks of you, love swells in his heart and a smile comes to his face.”

Vocation, Calling, and Work

Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good, by Amy Sherman

  • Favorite Quote:  “For Jesus came preaching not just this gospel of personal justification but the gospel of the kingdom.  Jesus’ work is not exclusively about our individual salvation, but about the cosmic redemption and renewal of all things.  it is not just about our reconciliation to a holy God–though that is the beautiful center of it.  It is also about our reconciliation with one another and with the creation itself.”

God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life, by Gene Edward Veith, Jr.

  • Favorite Quote:  “The purpose of vocation is to love and serve one’s neighbor.  This is the test, the criterion, and the guide for how to live out each and every vocation anyone can be called to:  How does my calling serve my neighbor?”

Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work, by Tom Nelson

  • Favorite Quote:  “Our work, whatever it is, whether we are paid for it, is our specific human contribution to God’s ongoing creation and to the common good.”

Called: The Crisis and Promise of Following Jesus Today, by Mark Labberton

  • Favorite Quote:  “God’s primary call is for us to belong to and live for the flourishing of God’s purposes i the world.  At the same time, God may also call in ways that include direction in relation to such things as jobs, gifts, relationships and more.  So, God’s call encompasses the foundational purposes of our lives and sometimes provides guidance for our concrete work and activity.”

Missional Ministry

Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America, ed. by Darrell L. Guder

  • Favorite Quote: “We have come to see that mission is not merely an activity of the church. Rather, mission is the result of God’s initiative, rooted in God’s purposes to restore and heal creation. ‘Mission’ means ‘sending,’ and it is the central biblical theme describing the purpose of God’s action in human history.”

The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, by Lesslie Newbigin

  • Favorite Quote:  “It is impossible to stress too strongly that the beginning of mission is not an action of ours, but the presence of a new reality, the presence of the Spirit of God in power.”

The Missional Leader: Equipping Your Church to Reach a Changing World, by Alan Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk

  • Favorite Quote:  “Missional leadership cultivates an environment in which the people of God imagine together a new future rather than one already determined by a leader.”

Constructing Local Theologies, by Robert J. Schreiter

  • Favorite Quote:  “…the prevailing mode of evangelization and church development should be one of finding Christ in the situation rather than concentrating on bringing Christ into the situation.”

To Alter Your World: Partnering With God to Rebirth Our Communities, by Michael Frost and Christiana Rice

  • Favorite Quote:  “Just as the midwife comes alongside a laboring mother, so we are invited to come alongside God in the miracle of birthin new life for the world around us.  The task is not to get God to do something we think needs to be done, but to become aware of what God is doing so that we can participate in it.”

Christendom and Post-Christendom Studies

The Patient Ferment of the Early Church: The Improbable Rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire, by Alan Kreider

  • Favorite Quote:  “…it was anonymous Christians, not the officially constituted leaders of the Christian communities, who were primarily responsible for Christianity’s spread…. What caused ordinary Christians to get involved in this? Often it was work. Christians followed their business opportunities or the imperatives of their jobs by moving from their home areas to new areas as merchants, artisans, doctors, prisoners, slaves, and (by the third century) soldiers.”

The Change of Conversion and the Origin of Christendom, by Alan Kreider

  • Favorite Quote:  “Within Christendom the fundamental division is not between church and world but between clergy and laity.”

Preaching and Sermon Prep

The Homiletical Plot: The Sermon as Narrative Art Form, by Eugene L. Lowry

  • Favorite Quote:  “In presentation the sermon always begins with the itch and moves to the scratch–from the human predicament to the solution born of the gospel.”

Cadences of Home: Preaching Among Exiles, by Walter Brueggemann

  • Favorite Quote:  “It is thus m notion that the preacher and congregation can reconstrue the time and place of preaching as a time and place for the practice of imagination, tht is, the reimagination of reality according to the evangelical script of the Bible.”

The Preaching Life, by Barbara Brown Taylor

  • Favorite Quote:  “A sermon, on the other hand, is an act of creation with real risk in it, as one foolhardy human being presumes to address both God and humankind, speaking to each on the other’s behalf and praying to get out of the pulpit alive.”

Poets/Prophets/Preachers, by Rob Bell (video series)

  • Favorite Quote:  “Where and how you begin the story and where and how you end the story shape and determine what story you’re telling.”