11 Recommended Books for Lead Pastors in 2019

Harry S. Truman once said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” Reading improves our understanding and encourages us to learn from the experiences of others. It allows us to grow our skills by sitting under the instruction of experts.

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If you’re ready to take your leadership to the next level in 2019, we’ve put together a list of ministry and business books that can help you do it.

1. The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues

Ideal Team Player

Author: Patrick M. Lencioni

Publisher: Jossey-Bass

Publishing date: 2016

About the book:

In The Ideal Team Player, Lencioni tells the story of Jeff Shanley, a leader desperate to save his uncle’s company by restoring its cultural commitment to teamwork. Jeff must crack the code on the virtues that real team players possess, and then build a culture of hiring and development around those virtues.

Beyond the fable, Lencioni presents a practical framework with actionable tools for identifying, hiring, and developing ideal team players. Whether you’re a leader trying to create a culture around teamwork, a staffing professional looking to hire real team players, or a team player wanting to improve yourself, this book will prove to be as useful as it is compelling.

About the author:

Patrick Lencioni is the founder and president of The Table Group. Since 1997, The Table group has been helping to improve leaders and increase the health of multinational corporations, entrepreneurial ventures, professional sports teams, nonprofits, schools, and churches.

2. Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others

Dare to Serve

Author: Cheryl Bachelder

Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers

Publishing date: Revised and expanded 2018

About the book:

In Dare to Serve, former Popeyes CEO Cheryl Bachelder shows that leading by serving is a rigorous and tough-minded approach that yields the best results.

When she was named CEO of Popeyes in 2007, the stock price had slipped from $34 in 2002 to $13. The brand was stagnant, the team was discouraged, and the franchisees were just plain angry. Nine years later, restaurant sales were up 45 percent, restaurant profits had doubled, and the stock price was over $61. Servant leadership is sometimes derided as soft or ineffective, but this book confirms that challenging people to reach a daring destination, while treating them with dignity, creates the conditions for superior performance.

The second edition of this bestselling book includes Bachelder’s post-Popeyes observations and new examples of how you can switch your leadership from self to serve.

About the author:

Cheryl A. Bachelder served as CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Inc. from 2007 to 2017. She led a turnaround of the company’s financial results with a compelling strategic roadmap for growth and an inspiring purpose and set of principles.

Ms. Bachelder holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and a Masters of Business Administration in Finance and Marketing from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.

3. Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the Seven Greatest Challenges that No One Expects and Everyone Experiences

Didn’t See It Coming

Author: Carey Nieuwhof
Publisher: Waterbrook
Publishing date: 2018

About the book:

Pastor Nieuwhof believes it’s not only possible to predict life’s hardest moments, but to alter outcomes, overcome challenges, and defeat your fiercest adversaries.

As the founding pastor of one of North America’s most influential churches, Nieuwhof wants to help you avoid and overcome life’s seven hardest and most crippling challenges: cynicism, compromise, disconnectedness, irrelevance, pride, burnout, and emptiness. These are challenges that few of us expect but that we all experience at some point. If you have yet to confront these obstacles, he provides clear tools and guidelines for anticipation and avoidance.

On the other hand, if you already feel stuck in a painful experience or are wrestling with one of these challenges, he provides the steps you need to find a way out and a way forward into a more powerful and vibrant future.

About the author:

Carey Nieuwhof is a former lawyer and the founding pastor of Connexus Church in Barrie, Ontario. He is a much sought after conference speaker, podcaster, and thought leader. With millions of listeners regularly tuning in, The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast features today’s top leaders and cultural influencers.

4. Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters

Good strategy bad strategy

Author: Richard Rumelt
Publisher: Profile Books
Publishing date: 2011

About the book:

When Richard Rumelt’s Good Strategy/Bad Strategy was published in 2011, it immediately struck a chord. Rumelt called out the mish-mash of pop culture, motivational slogans and business buzz speak that so often and misleadingly masquerades as real strategy.

Since then, his original and pragmatic ideas have won fans around the world and continue to help readers recognize and avoid the elements of bad strategy. His book also advocates the adoption of good, action-oriented strategies that honestly acknowledge the challenges being faced and offer straightforward approaches to overcoming them. Strategy should not be equated with ambition, leadership, vision, or planning; rather—it is a coherent action backed by an argument.

For Rumelt, the heart of a good strategy is the insight into the hidden power in any situation, and into an appropriate response—whether launching a new product, putting a man on the moon, or kicking off a new ministry. Drawing on examples of the good and the bad from across all sectors and all ages, he shows how this insight can be cultivated with a wide variety of tools that lead to better thinking and better strategy—strategy that cuts through the hype and gets results.

About the author:

Richard Rumelt is a professor at UCLA’s Anderson School of Business. He also taught for several years at INSEAD in France and has been a consultant to a wide range of organizations, from the Samuel Goldwyn Company to Shell.

5. Letters to the Church

Letters to the Church

Author: Francis Chan
Publisher: David C. Cook
Publishing date: 2018

About the book:

There is a growing and unacceptable discrepancy between God’s vision for the church and ours. Consumerism has to leave. The Church requires more.

God’s Church started as a radical, spiritually intimate gathering of believers that ultimately changed history. Yet millions today are content to be mere observers at church. Many more have left, brokenhearted and cynical. But God is waking up His people—people who will risk anything and sacrifice everything to be the dynamic, world-changing Church of scripture.

Speaking out of deep love for the Church, Chan guides Christ-followers to live out God’s magnificent and beautiful vision for His church—a vision we may have lost but God has never forgotten.

About the author:

Francis Chan is a pastor, speaker, and bestselling author. God used the death of his parents early in childhood to give Francis a deep understanding of the brevity of life. This has shaped his life and teaching with an eternal perspective, as he continues to challenge believers to live on mission, willing to surrender everything.

Francis has been used powerfully by God to author the books Crazy Love, Forgotten God, Erasing Hell, Multiply, and You and Me Forever. He’s sold millions of copies around the world in many different languages.

6. Spiritual Practices in Community: Drawing Groups into the Heart of God

Spiritual Practices in Community

Author: Diana Shiflett
Publisher: IVP Books
Publishing date: 2018

About the book:

Diana Shiflett has been leading groups of all descriptions in spiritual practices for many years, and understands the difficulties involved: The potential for awkwardness and self-doubt and the nagging question of whether anyone’s getting anything out of this at all. But more than that, she understands the value of spiritual practices—their deep roots in the history and worship of God’s people, and their ability to calm our distracted minds and hearts so we are ready to hear the voice of Jesus.

In this personal, hands-on guide, Shiflett walks us through a wide array of spiritual practices, from communal silence and scripture meditation to active prayer and corporate discernment. She proves a reliable guide, offering step-by-step instructions, pointing out hazards and pitfalls, and sharing her own experiences with honesty and humor.

With this book as a guide, these spiritual practices can become life-giving resources in your ministry setting for years to come.

About the author:

Diana Shiflett is the pastor of spiritual formation at Naperville Covenant Church in Naperville, Illinois. She’s an adjunct professor of youth ministry at North Park University, and a certified spiritual director. She has a masters degree in clinical psychology from Wheaton College and has been leading groups in spiritual practices for more than 20 years.

7. Find Your Place: Locating Your Calling Through Your Gifts, Passions, and Story

Find Your Place

Authors: Rob Wegner and Brian Phipps
Publisher: Zondervan
Publishing date: Releases March, 2019

About the book:

Every person has been designed by God for one-of-a-kind Masterpiece Mission, what most people refer to as personal calling or personal purpose. Everyone needs to be able to name what God has put them on the earth to do. Most people never do. That is a tragedy of epic proportions.

We need a simple way to discover that calling, and Find Your Place is that way. GPS technology is widely known as a way to know where you are on the earth, as well as a way to guide you to where you want to go. Find Your Place helps Jesus followers locate the three signals for discerning their personal calling—their Gifts, their Passions, and their Story, and helps them take meaningful next steps to engage that calling.

About the authors:

Rob Wegner served as a teaching pastor at Granger Community Church in Granger, Indiana, for 21 years, and four years at Westside Family Church in Kansas City. Currently, he is planting the Kansas City Underground, a decentralized network of reproducing disciples, microchurches and collective congregations of those microchurches.

Brian Phipps has 25 years of ministry experience, including transitioning a church, planting a church, and being an executive at a mega church. In 2018, Brian stepped out of full-time ministry to develop Disciples Made, Inc., a not-for-profit that provides the best of those disciple-making experiences.

8. Politics of Ministry: Navigating Power Dynamics and Negotiating Interests

Politics of Ministry

Authors: Bob Burns, Tasha D. Chapman, and Donald C. Guthrie

Publisher: IVP
Publishing date: 2019

About the book:

We all need help navigating the politics of ministry. Politics is often considered a dirty word. It brings to mind lies and manipulation, accusations, and scandals. But at its most basic level, politics is simply the everyday activity of getting things done with other people—understanding their interests, recognizing the power dynamics at play, and learning how to negotiate relationships and institutions to achieve a common goal.

These realities are as true in ministry settings as anywhere else. In The Politics of Ministry, Bob Burns, Tasha Chapman, and Donald Guthrie combine their long ministry experience with sociological research on the topic. Filled with real-life stories taken from a variety of ministry settings, this book sets out wise principles and practices that help us see more clearly the political dynamics at play in our churches and parachurch ministries.

All ministry is political. As servants of Christ’s kingdom, we are called to navigate the politics of ministry with grace, wisdom, and charity. This book shows us how the gospel of Jesus changes the way we work with those around us toward our common goal.

About the authors:

Bob Burns is the pastor of spiritual formation at Church of the Good Shepherd in Durham, North Carolina. He was previously dean of lifelong learning and associate professor of education ministries at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis.

Tasha D. Chapman is associate dean of lifelong learning and adjunct professor of educational ministries at Covenant Seminary.

Donald C. Guthrie is a professor of educational ministries at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.

Donald C. Guthrie is a professor of educational ministries at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.

9. Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture


Author: David Murray
Publisher: Crossway
Publishing date: 2017

About the book:

“How did I get here?”

These are the words of many Christians on the brink of burnout or in the midst of breakdown. They are exhausted, depressed, anxious, stressed, and joyless. Their time is spent doing many good things, but their pace is unsustainable, lacking the regular rest, readjustment, and recalibration they need.

But there is good news: God has graciously provided a way for people to reset their lives to a more sustainable pace. Drawing on personal experiences—and time spent counseling other men in the midst of burnout—David Murray offers weary ministry personnel hope for the future, helping them identify the warning signs of burnout and offering practical strategies for developing patterns that are necessary for living a grace-paced life and reaching the finish line with their joy intact.

About the author:
David Murray is professor of Old Testament and practical theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and the pastor of Grand Rapids Free Reformed Church. He is also a counselor and regular conference speaker.

10. Insider Outsider: My Journey as a Stranger in White Evangelicalism and My Hope for Us All

Insider Outsider

Author: Bryan Loritts
Publisher: Zondervan
Publishing date: 2018

About the book:

God boldly proclaims throughout the book of Acts, “There is no ethnic home team when it comes to Christianity.” But the minority experience in America today–and throughout history–too often tells a different story.

When Pastor Bryan Loritts wrote an op-ed piece in Christianity Today about this “evangelical gentrification” in the American church, he received an overwhelming response of more than one million views and sparked a provocative national conversation. In Insider Outsider, Loritts dives deeper into what it’s like to be a person of color in predominantly white evangelical spaces today and explores where we go from here. Drawing on insightful snapshots through history, eye-opening personal experiences, and biblical exposition, Loritts awakens both our minds and hearts to the painful reality of racial divides as well as the hope of forgiveness.

As Loritts writes, “It is impossible to do theology devoid of cultural lenses and expressions. Like an American unaware of their own accent, most whites are unaware of the ethnic theological accent they carry.” Insider Outsider bears witness to the true stories that often go untold—stories that will startle, enlighten, and herald a brighter way forward for all those seeking belonging in the family of God.

About the author:

Bryan Loritts is the lead pastor of Abundant Life Christian Fellowship in Silicon Valley. A graduate of Cairn University (formerly Philadelphia College of Bible) and Talbot School of Theology, Bryan Loritts was recently voted one of the top thirty emerging Christian leaders. He is the co-founder of Fellowship Memphis—a multi-ethnic church where Bryan served for eleven years, helping it to grow from twenty-six people in a living room to several thousand. Pastor Bryan also served as pastor for preaching and mission at Trinity Grace Church in New York City, and is the author of several books.

11. Preaching in an Age of Distraction

Preaching in an Age of Distraction

Author: J. Ellsworth Kalas
Publisher: IVP Books
Publishing date: 2014

About the book:

Preaching is difficult enough under the best of circumstances. But what are we to do when it seems that all of us—hearers and preachers alike—are constantly distracted?

Veteran preacher and homiletics professor J. Ellsworth Kalas offers wise insights for effective preaching in an age of distraction. He examines how people have been distracted in every era and explores how God can meet people precisely at the point of their distraction. Regardless of whatever new technologies come our way, this call to pastoral attentiveness, creativity and excellence provides avenues for connecting with congregations with a countercultural clarity of focus.

Rediscover how the proclamation of the Word still speaks profoundly to distracted hearers. Invite your congregation to a renewed attention to the things of God.

About the author:

Ellsworth Kalas is the senior professor of homiletics at Asbury Theological Seminary in Lexington, Kentucky. He is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and a prolific author.

Happy reading!

These are just a few of the ministry and business books that can help you lead and teach with confidence and passion this year. Some alternatives that didn’t make this list include:

  • Creating Church Handbook: Releasing the Power of the Arts in Your Congregation by J. Scott McElroy
  • Red, Brown, Yellow, Black, White: Who’s More Precious In God’s Sight? by Leroy Barber
  • Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory by Tod Bolsinger
  • Imperfect Courage by Jessica Honegger

Start your 2019 off right, and jump into some new literature. Your church will thank you. But don’t leave just yet. The Definitive Guide to Successful Church Engagement is another great resource for pastors and other church leaders looking to develop themselves personally and help their church sustain healthy growth. Download this free resource today!

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