I encourage every evangelist who wants to be in ministry for more than five years to carefully read the following nine books. All nine have been game-changers for me.

1. 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 blind spots. 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.

2. 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!”

3. 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 counter intuitive character-based ladder developed in the context of relationships of respect and trust.

4. TrueFaced: Trust God and Others with Who You Really Are by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol and John Lynch.

They argue that without trust 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.

5. 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…

6. One Lord, One Faith by Rex Koivisto.

Koivisto’s book differentiates between what the author calls “the core of orthodoxy” and secondary points of doctrine and practice.

7. 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.

Finally, I encourage every pastor in the ministry for the long-haul to read these two books…

8. The Disquieted Soul by Lane Cohee (Credo House Publishers).

You and I inhabit a world of Disquieted Souls, living lives of restless discontent. We too can be souls who over-analyze, over-worry, over-perform, and over-protect. We can be souls running as fast as we can, trying to escape our own unhappiness. Perfectionism extremes and pathologies can be our regular companions. Thankfully, we can learn— and relearn— how to quiet our souls. Lane Cohee shows us how.

9. Confessions of an Angry Man by Brent Hofer (KDP).

This former Christian leader is quite clear: “Obeying my religious convictions does not make me right with God. They also do not make me better than others. They only make me proud. For years I felt like a failure to God because of my anger, jealousy, and lack of love. So, I tried to improve my standing with God by obeying all of my outward convictions of right and wrong behaviors. They only made me a hypocrite. Admitting that I was wrong brought trust, transformation, and love for my family and others.” Haunting yet powerfully liberating.

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My life is committed to serving and serving with others to demonstrate and proclaim the relevance of Jesus Christ in every major sphere of life. From 1982 to 2002, I served in eight positions, including Vice President of Publishing & Internet Ministries, for what was then the Luis Palau Evangelistic Association. Serving NGA members always has been important to me. I've felt like a member of NGA all the way back to when I jumped through all the hoops to trademark "Next Generation Alliance." In 2003 I founded Sanford Communications, Inc., which in 2008 became part of Credo Communications in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Since then, a number of NGA members have published their first books, etc., with our encouragement and collaboration. Speaking of books, I had the privilege to be the conceptual designer and executive editor of the award-winning Starting Point Study Bible (an LPA / NGA Bible published by Zondervan), the co-author with Luis Palau of the Los Angeles Times acclaimed best-seller, God Is Relevant (Doubleday, 1997), and many other projects. Bottom line: I love working with NGA members and other Christian leaders in the very busy intersection of public speaking, social networking, mass media interviewing, and book publishing. These "golden keys" open even more doors for these leaders to do what they most love and are most passionate about.
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