Top Church Planting Books

I am often asked what are the top church planting books I have read and would recommend, so I decided to put them in this post.

Before you begin please understand that this is a list, not a ranking!

Here we go…

It's Personal: Surviving and Thriving on the Journey of Church Planting (Exponential Series)
1.  It’s Personal: Surviving and Thriving on the Journey of Church Planting (Exponential Series) by Brian Bloye
unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity... and Why It Matters
2.  unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity… and Why It Matters by Gabe Lyons
The Next Christians: Seven Ways You Can Live the Gospel and Restore the World
3.  The Next Christians: Seven Ways You Can Live the Gospel and Restore the World by Gabe Lyons
Church Planting Is for Wimps: How God Uses Messed-up People to Plant Ordinary Churches That Do Extraordinary Things (9Marks)
4.  Church Planting Is for Wimps: How God Uses Messed-up People to Plant Ordinary Churches That Do Extraordinary Things (9Marks) by Mike McKinley
Planting Missional Churches
5.  Planting Missional Churches by Ed Stetzer
Church in the Making: What Makes or Breaks a New Church Before it Starts
6.  Church in the Making: What Makes or Breaks a New Church Before it Starts by Ben Arment
Exponential: How You and Your Friends Can Start a Missional Church Movement (Exponential Series)
7.  Exponential: How You and Your Friends Can Start a Missional Church Movement (Exponential Series) by Dave Ferguson
Launch: Starting a New Church from Scratch
8.  Launch: Starting a New Church from Scratch by Kerrick Thomas
Not Like Me: A Field Guide for Influencing a Diverse World
9.  Not Like Me: A Field Guide for Influencing a Diverse World by Eric Michael Bryant
Rethinking the Successful Church: Finding Serenity in God's Sovereignty
10.  Rethinking the Successful Church: Finding Serenity in God’s Sovereignty by Samuel D. Rima
Ten Most Common Mistakes Made by Church Starts
11.  Ten Most Common Mistakes Made by Church Starts by Jim Griffith
Church Planting Landmines
12.  Church Planting Landmines by Tom Nebel & Gary Rohrmayer
Nuts and Bolts of Church Planting, The: A Guide for Starting Any Kind of Church
13.  Nuts and Bolts of Church Planting, The: A Guide for Starting Any Kind of Church by Aubrey Malphurs
Breaking the Missional Code: Your Church Can Become a Missionary in Your Community
14.  Breaking the Missional Code: Your Church Can Become a Missionary in Your Community by Ed Stetzer
Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission
15.  Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission by Darrin Patrick

You can check out these books in my Amazon list here.

Top Spiritual Growth Books

7 Spiritual Growth Books

I am often asked what are the top spiritual growth books I have read and would recommend, so I decided to put a few in this post.

Before you begin please understand this is a list, NOT A RANKING, and not exclusive…just the first several good ones that come to mind.

Here we go…The Me I Want To Be

  1. The Me I Want to Be: Becoming God’s Best Version of You by John Ortberg
  2. A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders by Reggie McNeal
  3. Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No by Henry Cloud
  4. Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith by Rob Bell
  5. The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God by Dallas Willard
  6. Wasting Time With God : A Christian Spirituality of Friendship With God by Klaus Issler
  7. The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God by Brent Curtis & John Eldridge

You can check out these books in my Amazon list here.

Who’s writing your story? What story will you tell?

Who's writing your story?

We all love a good story…and we all have a story to tell. You probably have stories about your life that you love to tell:

  • Let me tell you about a time I had a problem and I overcame it.
  • Let me tell you about how I set goal and accomplished it.
  • Let me tell you about the time I made the right decision.
  • Let me tell you about that time I did something really stupid, but it turned out funny.

Unfortunately, you may also have other stories you’d rather leave untold. Perhaps there are even whole chapters of your life you’d like to go back and edit. Or parts you’d like to leave out or make sound better. Is there a chapter you’re ashamed of or even lie about? Most of us have chapters that we wish were not part of the story.

As I’ve been reflecting on my story, it’s amazing how seemingly small, insignificant decisions end up having a big impact on the direction of our life story. Have you ever thought about that? If I hadn’t taken a little detour on the way to a class in college, I wouldn’t have found a summer job where I ended up meeting my wife. I can’t imagine how my life would be different if I hadn’t made that little decision.

Here’s the reality for each of us:

Decisions you make today determine the story you’ll tell tomorrow.

In a recent teaching series at Ezra Church, we explored how to live a story worth telling. One of the best things we can do is decide who the author of our story will be. Check out how Hebrews 12:2 in the Bible says it…

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith… -Hebrews 12:2

While many of us fix our eyes on the story we want to tell…our goals, our dreams, our ambition…Hebrews reminds us to fix our eyes on Jesus. As we follow him, and trust him to write our story, it becomes a story worth telling. The decision you make today will determine the story you tell tomorrow.

Who’s writing your story?

Top Leadership Books

I am often asked what are the top leadership books I have read and would recommend, so I decided to put them in this post.

Before you begin please understand that this is a list, not a ranking!

Here we go…
Next Generation Leader

  1. Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley
  2. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
  3. Deep & Wide by Andy Stanley
  4. Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels
  5. Good to Great by Jim Collins
  6. Integrity by Henry Cloud
  7. Leading Change by John Kotter
  8. Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership by Gary McIntosh & Sam Rima
  9. A Work of Heart by Reggie McNeal

You can check out these books in my Amazon list here.

Pack your coffin!

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When did we start believing that God wants to send us to safe places to do easy things? That faithfulness is holding the fort? That playing it safe is safe? That there is any greater privilege than sacrifice? That radical is anything but normal?

Jesus didn’t die to keep us safe. He died to make us dangerous.

Faithfulness is not holding the fort. It’s storming the gates of hell.

The will of God is not an insurance plan. It’s a daring plan.

The complete surrender of your life to the cause of Christ isn’t radical. It’s normal.

It’s time to quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death.

It’s time to go all in and all out for the All in All.

Pack your coffin!

Mark Batterson, in All In: You Are One Decision Away From a Totally Different Life

You might be a consumer if…

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In a recent teaching series at my church, I was teaching about what it means to live “on mission”.

When you follow Jesus, at some point it will be hard. It will cost you something. Up until that point following Jesus has served you well. He’s helped your marriage. He’s given you strength. You’ve discovered purpose in your life. But, at some point it will cost you.

In that moment, your response will determine this about you:

Are you a consumer, or are you a follower?

Many of Jesus’ followers begin as consumers. It’s natural…we come to him and he draws us to himself out of a legitimate need in our life. His first followers needed fish, or healing, or direction. Beginning to follow Jesus and entering life with him costs you nothing. It’s a gift. But following Jesus will cost you something (see Mark 8:34-36).

A woman told me she loves going to our church to be filled up for her week. Awesome. I’m glad to hear that her time with us is encouraging to her and her faith. We’re glad you’re here.

Followers help others follow.

But at some point, you’ve got to be a part of helping fill up others…not just getting yourself “filled up.” Followers help others follow.

This plays out in every area of our life. But, let me illustrate what it looks like with your church:

  • If you come and sit more than you come and serve…
  • If you criticize more than you contribute…
  • If you take more than you give…
  • If you watch more than you participate…
  • If you are more concerned about who is speaking that what God is speaking to you…

you might be a consumer.

Review of Max Lucado’s “You’ll Get Through This”

You'll Get Through This by Max LucadoWe’ve all been there. One of those seasons of life that you think just may never end. You did something, or something was done to you. The doctor calls with bad news, or the meeting with the boss didn’t end the way you hoped. It hurts, and you just want it to get better.

In his latest book, You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times, Max Lucado draws from the deep well of Scripture and the story of Joseph’s life. With his trademark winsome approach and story-telling, Lucado helps us see that the story of Joseph didn’t just happen, it happens. God whispers into our pain and doubt and discouragement.

And what does He whisper? “You’ll get through this. Not because you have enough strength or wisdom on your own – but because I do.” Just as God redeemed Joseph’s darkest moments, He can redeem yours.

Equal parts encouragement, wisdom, teaching and story, You’ll Get Through This would be helpful to anyone going through a difficult season. The included discussion guide at the end of the book offers a helpful tool to work through the ideas in the book with a group of friends and put some of the big ideas into action. If you’ve enjoyed previous Lucado books, this latest will continue to please you, as well.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

What does “living on mission” mean?

I'm the big hitter.

I’m the big hitter.

When I was a kid, my brother and I loved to play baseball. But, since there were only 2 of us, it didn’t work very well. So, we created all sorts of rules to make it work. We had ghost-runners (you know what those are, right?). If you hit the ball over there, it was an automatic double. If you hit the ball way back there, it’s an automatic homerun. If it’s Tuesday, you get a free extra runner that can go backwards.

Family legend seems to recall that since I was the older brother, I would always be changing the rules to my advantage so I could win. My brother still doesn’t want to play games with me, so maybe there is some truth to that. The problem was, the rules were always changing and so it was hard to know how to play and how to win.

We’ve got that same problem when it comes to “living on mission.” We use this phrase at my church to describe part of what it means to live in connection with God…we “live on mission.”

But, if you’ve spent any time around a church in the past several years, you’ve probably heard the word “missional” or “on mission”. It’s been over-used and under-lived. The definition seems to be a moving target and it’s hard to know what it actual means. So, let me take a stab at clearing things up:

You are only on Jesus’ mission if you are walking in Jesus’ way.

Hanging out at a bar or coffeeshop doesn’t make you missional. Being part of a new church plant doesn’t make you missional. Having cool facial hair doesn’t do it. Doing nice things for poor people doesn’t mean you’re living on mission.

Walking like Jesus’ walked. Engaging people in real, messy, life-on-life relationships. Sacrificing yourself. Serving instead of being served. Giving instead of getting. This is Jesus’ way. This is life on mission.

Jesus said it this way,

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:34-36)

Following Jesus – joining in his mission – is sometimes about denying ourselves. It might cost you in this life for the good of his eternal way & Kingdom. Salvation & connection with God are free – they cost you nothing. That is the gift of God. But following Jesus will cost you something.

And it’s always worth it. Jesus is saying, “if you’re going to lose the things in this life anyway (we all die), why not use this life to build into things that are eternal?” Wouldn’t you make that trade if you really thought about it?

I’m not sure what or when it will cost you, but it will. In that moment, you can choose to join in Jesus’ mission, follow his way, and be a part of

This plays out in every area of our lives: marriage, finances, parenting, work, play, community, church. Where is Jesus asking you to follow him today that may cost you something?

If you’re ready to live on mission and you’re part of Ezra Church, maybe you could even check out one of the 104 ways to serve at Ezra this fall!

(More thoughts on “living on mission” coming soon…)