Every pastor who still wants to be in the ministry five years from now needs to carefully read eight books. All eight have been game-changers for me.
- Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by Arbinger Institute (Berrett-Koehler). This international mainstream best-seller applies what turns out to be the Golden Rule and a few other biblical principles to daily life including marriage, family, work, and ministry. Foundational truth of this book: We all have blindspots. By definition, we can’t identify, let alone address, our blind spots on our own. Instead, we need to invite a few respected, trusted individuals to speak into our lives with love and truth about each blind spot, weakness, and failing.
- Leadership Above the Line by Sarah Sumner (Tyndale). On the back cover, I’m quoted saying, “If you lead leaders, push other books aside—and make this the next one you read. Leadership Above the Line is 60 percent story, 100 percent breakthrough insights on leadership formation. Dr. Sarah Sumner’s character-based model is clear, her story is compelling, and her application tools are transformational. Highly recommended!”
- The Ascent of a Leader:How Ordinary Relationships Develop Extraordinary Character and Influence by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol and Ken McElrath. This best-seller redefined what it means to climb to the top of the ladder. The authors forcefully argue against the traditional leadership ladder and, in its place, present a compelling, biblical, and counterintuitive character-based ladder developed in the context of relationships of respect and trust.
- TrueFaced: Trust God and Others with Who You Really Are by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol and John Lynch. Building on their best-selling breakthrough work, the authors emphasize the pivotal role of trust. Without trust, they argue, we effectively shut out God and others from speaking into our lives—speaking into our character development and the destiny God has planned specifically for you and for me.
- Free to Disagree: Moving Beyond the Arguments Over Christian Liberty by John Wecks (Kregel). I sometimes jokingly say this book should be titled, Free to Disagree Agreeably. I recommend reading this book together with…
- One Lord, One Faith by Rex Koivisto. Koivisto’s book differentiates between what the author calls “the core of orthodoxy” over against secondary and tertiary points of doctrine and practice.
Finally, every pastor in the ministry for the long-haul needs to read these two books:
- Leaders Open Doors by Bill Treasurer (Open Book). I’m from a long line of atheists in Seattle. When I fully dedicated my life to Jesus Christ at age 13, I was disowned. To this day I thank God for my first Christian Education pastor, my first youth pastor, and my first senior pastor. Each opened doors for me and completely changed the trajectory of my life. The senior pastor served God winsomely to his dying day. The other two are still in pastoral ministry, and for good reason. They still know how to open doors for others.
- The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Conflict by Ken Sande (Baker). When Ken Sande speaks, I listen. He’s an attorney, a pastor by heart, and a Bible teacher extraordinaire. In this landmark volume, he presents four basic biblical principles for resolving conflict: Glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31). Get the log out of your own eye (Matt. 7:5). Go and show your brother his fault (Matt. 18:15). Go and be reconciled (Matt. 5:24). Bottom line: Ken Sande says that conflict consistently presents us with the opportunity to demonstrate the presence and power of God at work in our lives.
David Sanford has been a pastor for 22 years and serves on the leadership team at Corban University in Salem, Oregon. His writings have been published everywhere from Focus on the Family to Forbes.