Dick's Picks Book Reviews

Books are sorted by category:

Church Leadership  |  Christian Living  |  Hospitality  |  Secular Leadership  |  Novels  |  Personal  |  Small Groups  |  Youth


Growing Disciples Organically
by Don Detrick 

I don't know how many books I've read over the years that point church leaders and laity to various and sundry aspects of discipleship. The subtitle of this book says it all: The Jesus Method of Spiritual Formation. Simple. So why is it we struggle to do it well? A great book that every church leader should read.

Right Turns
by Dick Hardy

Ever wonder why some churches are declining and others are not? What characteristics do pastors of larger, growing churches possess? At The Hardy Group we believe that church doesn't have to be what it always has been. And we believe you can lead at an entirely new level. Right Turns gets you there!

Necessary Endings
By Henry Cloud

Reading Necessary Endings with church eyes puts a whole new spin on the idea of stopping ministries that are not working. Dr. Henry Cloud writes about the employees, ministries, and relationships that all of us have to give up in order to move forward.

Steering Through Chaos
By Scott Wilson 

When navigating change in the church there are no formulas. Scott Wilson is the master at walking the reader through the nuances of change for newer churches and establishment churches. Need change? You need the book.

Leading on Empty
by Wayne Cordeiro 

Wayne Cordeiro speaks the unspeakable for ministry leaders. Burnout is common and depression is more common than we will admit. How does a pastor chase in a bookend ministry life of one weekend to the next? Read it and recover. Read it and prevent the unnecessary loss of energy and fire for the future.

Simply Strategic Volunteers
by Tony Morgan 

Got too many volunteers? This book describes the nuances of volunteers in 99 very short chapters. Read, apply and create positions to be filled by all the volunteers ready to serve your church.

27 Tough Questions Pastors Ask
By Dick Hardy 

This book needs to be read by every church leader. The author pulls no punches in articulating answers to tough questions. Budgets, leadership, hospitality, staffing, conflict management and discipleship. It's all there and more!

Leading From the Second Chair
by Mike Bonem 

How can you lead if you are not THE leader? #2 leaders have a significant place in the church as they support the vision of the senior leader while leading in their own right. Two experienced second chair leaders articulate the why's and how's of this role.

Cracking Your Church's Culture Code
by Sam Chand 

Samuel Chand's book challenges you to reinvent. You can resist the downward spiral of failure and move ahead with the change necessary to identify and change your church's culture.

by Rick McDaniel

I am impressed with the way Comeback reads so easily. You are pulled in with every page, description and comeback story told. McDaniel leaves nothing on the table in terms of setting hopes and dreams in your heart for the future. If others could come back, so can you.

Purpose Driven Church
by Rick Warren

Rick Warren is truly a church entrepreneur who expresses great confidence in the church's and his own ability to reach lost people. Most of you don't have to buy this book. Just get it off your shelf and read it. You'll kick yourself for not having done it sooner!

Transforming Church
by Kevin Ford 

The back cover notes that "In life, change is inevitable." In church, we wonder. "The book identifies five dysfunctions of an unhealthy church and shares the five key indicators of a healthy, vibrant congregation. You'll discover the keys for creating a church that transforms lives, your community and the world.

Transformational Church
by Ed Stetzer 

How are we doing? The church, that is. And how are we doing it? Congregations have long measured success by "bodies, budgets, and buildings - a certain record of attendance, the offering plate, and square footage. But the scorecard can't stop there. Transformational Church tells why.

The Elephant in the Board Room
by Russell Crabtree

If you are a pastor that wants to guide the church into a right process, it is critical that you pick up this book. The future is bright and will continue to be so long after you are gone. Keep planning and dreaming for today and tomorrow but don't ignore life for our church without you. Why not help the church put thoughts and plans into place for the eventuality no one talks about. you can take this one to the bank...You're Leaving! Be secure and buy it today.

The Fly in the Ointment
by Russell Crabtree

Have you ever wondered why it is that groupings of churches create fellowships or denominations? What purpose do they serve? After they have been established, why do they not help the very congregations which gave them reason for being? If you are into the status quo, don't waste your money on this book!

Thinking Missional
By Northwest Ministry Network

Think missional and you'll lead church change. You can do church the way you've always done it or you can focus on Biblical mission and measure everything you do against it. When you do, you will see mission happen.

From Belonging to Becoming
by Mike Clarensau 

“What if she comes to church?” and “Will she stay?” Simple but profound. When you get to the closing story, “Just Imagine,” you begin to feel the long-range implications of what loving like Jesus did is all about. I don’t know about you, but I want to be all about that.

Addicted to Busy
By Brady Boyd

Are you busier than you want to be? What about than you need to be? How about than you were meant to be? Is there recovery for the rushed soul? Brady Boyd answers those questions and more in his book Addicted to Busy. If you're too busy to stop and read and refresh, you may be addicted to busy. It's probably time to pick up the book and break the addiction.


First Things First
By Kurt and Brenda Warner

Sometimes you read a celebrity book and wonder, "is this real? Not so with First Things First. When you read the rules of being a Warner...what works, what doesn't and what really matters most, you realize you are reading the real deal.

Blue Like Jazz
by Donald Miller

Don't get me wrong. Blue Like Jazz has its share of smoke and mirrors. Miller loves shock value. At the same time, for some who have viewed the answers to life's problems as residing in the platform planks of one political party or in the dogma of one denomination over another, there is refreshment in this book.

Borrowed Vessels
by Gary Brothers

Ever get processed (face difficulty) in life or ministry? You're either ready to get processed or you're currently being processed or you're about done being processed. Wherever you are on the continuum, this book will help you greatly appreciate all that God is doing in your life.

Facing Your Giants
by Max Lucado, 2006

Sometimes you wonder whether you'll ever be able to face that which is beyond your capacity. It would not have been hard for David to do the same. But he faced his and the rest is history. The same can be true for you.

Getting Processed
by Jim Hill

Getting Processed is a powerful book that reveals how cycles of difficulty in life can actually help you become closer to God. My good friend and author, Jim Hill does a masterful job in walking the reader through the processing God does in our lives.

In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day
by Mark Batterson

This book makes me want to attack life! Mark Batterson articulates the story of Old Testament character Benaiah in a way that makes a person say to himself, "I can do that." Batterson takes no back seats to life challenges. In fact, he suggest that the future God has for you may reside in your biggest problem...your worst failures...your greatest fear.

Living in the Spirit
By Dr. George O. Wood

Although this is a book written primarily to Pentecostals, I found it to be one that speaks to all segments of Christianity today. The back cover says it well, "Dr. Wood's ability to express orthodox Pentecostal theology in creative and refreshing ways is unique." I could not agree more. 

Mind Over Meth
by Debra Hedgcorth

A couple of years ago at church, I heard Debra Hedgcorth and her husband, Chris give their testimony of deliverance from Meth-addiction. My sad confession is that I thought "Wow, that sound really good but I wonder how long it will last?"

Out Live Your Life
by Max Lucado

This book's byline states that "You were made to make a difference." It is the heart cry of virtually every person to make a difference. "Will it matter that I lived?" is asked by person after person. Outlive Your Life says we can make a difference if we will.

Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity
by Mark Batterson

That is a title and subtitle worthy of everyone's attention. This book should be read by every Christian. Further, I consider it a book that speaks to anyone who is on a spiritual journey of discovery.

Smart Work U
by Hona Amer

For college bound HS Juniors/Seniors and parents, author Hona Amer describes the way for you to get through college in 2 1/2 years debt free. And no, you don't have to be your high school's valedictorian to do it.

by Daniel Day

You need to pick up half a dozen and give them out to every graduating senior you know. This book challenges any student to be better and to stoke the fire. Don't think for a minute your high school senior is exempt. Great read. Top notch book.

The Game Isn't Over
By Tom Greene

Every man, successful or not, blue collar or white needs this book. A Quote: "The Game of life is in your hands to win or lose. Don't miss one pitch. The most exciting moments of your life are still to come!"

The Power of a Whisper
by Bill Hybels

How do you know the difference between your own thoughts and God's whispers? Bill Hybels provides five filters to determine if the prompting he is sensing is from God. This book is worth it just to learn those filters.

Theology in a Nutshell
by Ken Horn

As I read the book I thought of the person who just accepted Christ. They stepped across the line of faith and all the angels in heaven are in a state of rejoicing. They are asking questions about that faith. To that end, Theology in a Nutshell will help them immediately.

Wild Goose Chase
By Mark Batterson

Offense! This book makes you want to play offense and do it with vigor. Adventure, also known as circumstantial uncertainty, is yours for the taking. If you are like me, you might be ready for the wild goose chase that can only be provided by a God who delights in taking us to destinations hitherto unattainable in our minds. I'm glad he does. 

Mad Church Disease
by Anne Jackson

Ever ask yourself if working for the church is worth it? Does it ever interfere with your communion with Christ? Anne Jackson surmises that some pastors have asked those questions and more. This book is outstanding for every pastor serious about preventing Mad Church Disease in their own life.

Change Before You Have To
by Rob Ketterling

Have you ever wondered whether the discovery of a new life of abundance, passion and satisfaction could happen for you? It can—and Rob Ketterling, in his book Change Before You Have To, describes how it can happen.  You can change and there is no time like the present to do so!

Circle Maker
By Mark Batterson

The back cover says it well, “God honors bold prayers; bold prayers honor God.” The subhead to the book makes you want to flip through its pages: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears. Batterson challenges every reader to circle those dreams and fears in prayer over and over again.

Never Again
by John Ashcroft

When we ask America's young people to go out and stand in harm's way, to risk getting shot, or to lay their lives on the line, the moral imperative for toughness is clear. The challenge laid out in Never Again is to our generation and those to follow. "America at its best represents the values of freedom and goodness, and the terrorists represent imposition and evil." Ashcroft has seen that first hand.

by Tony Dungey

It is impressive to observe a man of Dungy’s stature communicating influence over image.  He’s earned the right to speak of faith, eternal self-esteem, our relationship with Christ, and our purpose and significance. That’s what every Christian leader should strive for.  Dungy nails it.  Be Uncommon!

By Ben Dailey

My friend, Ben Dailey nails it and wraps it up best when he says, "Get ready. As your desires collide with God's heart, it may feel like your world is coming to an end. But this collision is just the beginning." Pick up Collide, get reading and let the collision begin!

Why Is God So Mad At Me?
By Pat Schatzline

Author Pat Schatzline tackles the age-old issue of how God feels about us, particularly with our flaws and all-around sinful nature. In Why Is God So Mad at Me? Schatzline articulates the lies many people believe and dispels them one by one.


Be Our Guest
By The Disney Institute

Be Our Guest is a book that gives insight to arguably the finest customer service organization in the world, Disney. Everything from the first contact with Disney through the exit and follow through are described. Walt Disney set the bar high. You need to do the same!

Your Call is (Not That) Important to Us
by Emily Yellin

The church would do well to dig deep in examining whether its actions match up with its words that "People Matter to God." When read with church eyes, this book tells us a lot about how we treat people - getting and keeping them coming back.


Creating Customer Evangelists
By Ben McConnell

More than anyone, pastors can relate to this title. This book articulates the six tenets to customer evangelism. These are well-worth application to the church. My advice to any pastor - get this book.

Death By Meeting
by Patrick Lencioni

You will read in this book the cure for the most painful yet underestimated problem of the church: bad meetings. Although his writing is secular in nature, his application is clear to the church. The stakes are too high for us to not take serious the business of doing meetings well.

Getting Naked
by Patrick Lencioni

The title is a bit of an “At First Glance” shocker for most church leaders.   Getting Naked is a business fable about shedding the three fears that sabotage client loyalty. When church leaders read this book with church eyes and the thoughts of guest retention, a whole new view comes in focus.

Great By Choice
by Jim Collins

The first words on the cover of the book are "Uncertainty, chaos, and luck - Why some thrive despite them all." Wow! Is that church or what? Ever ask yourself why some churches that don't seem to be anything in particular thrive while others in the same circumstances don't?

How the Mighty Fall
by Jim Collins

Jim Collins of Built to Last and Good to Great fame spells out the five stages of decline which leaders must avoid at all costs. The stakes are particularly high for pastors and church leaders as they lead the greatest institution on earth.

How to Win Friends and Influence People
by Dale Carengie

However, the big measure of this book's 72-year run (published in 1937) is contained in Part 3 of the book where he describes how to win people to your way of thinking. Wow! For any person who must persuade to accomplish, this book is a must.

How Toyota Became Number One
by David Magee

In the last paragraph of his book, David Magee tells you what Toyota's answer is to the "What do you do when you reach the top of the mountain?" question. Don't cheat. Start at the beginning. This is a fascinating read for the student of "How-To-Grow-A-Church." These principles translate immediately to the local church.

It's Okay to be the Boss
by Bruce Tulgan

This book is a step-by-step guide to becoming the manager your staff and pastor need. Yes, you are the leader. However, you still need to manage staff to their highest level of performance to the mission of the church. It's okay to be the boss.

Leadership and Self-Deception
by Arbinger Institute

As pastors we face the enormous task of trying to identify truth and deception within us and crawling over the mountain of lies we tell ourselves. Even the business of understanding what is not readily understandable in terms of our human interactions makes this book a great read for pastors.

Management Tips
by Harvard Business Review

While the buzz word of today is "Leadership" let's not forget the value of management. When done right it makes you the manager and leader stronger for the church. 150 quick 1-2 pages chapters to make you better and more effective.

by Malcomb Gladwell

In Outliers, we learn why so many hockey stars are born in the first four months of the year.  We are introduced to reasons why computer revolutionaries Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Bill Joy, born from November 1954 to October 1955, became world changers. Can you be an outlier?

by Michael Hyatt

Never in my life have I listened to a book twice on audio tape and then read it once, only to go back through it again and read it in pieces. That’s how good Platform is.  Your church has a message that has to get through in a noisy world. It’s time to build your Platform.

Showing Up for Life
by Bill Gates, Sr.

Let me end with the Foreword to the book by the richest man on the planet. "Dad, the next time somebody asks you if you're the real Bill Gates, I hope you say, 'Yes.' I hope you tell them that you're all the things the other one strives to be."

by Chip & Dan Heath

Switch asks, "Why is it so hard to make lasting changes in our companies, in our communities, and in our own lives?" I ask the question of why is it so hard in the church. Read Switch with church eyes and change will be yours!

Talent is Overrated
by Geoff Colvin

For the church which is plateaued and declining because of all the "outside forces" (excuses A-Z), the book probably is not for them. If a pastors says something like, "If only I had the right people in place" and has all the "outside forces", well...

The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership
by Steven Sample

If you are a pastor trying to lead your church to the next level, you absolutely MUST read this book. When you read it as a leader of the most important institution on the planet, you will begin to understand why large, growing ministries are the way they are. Their leaders are contrarian either by nature or by training.

The Essential Vince Lombardi
by Vince Lombardi, Jr.

Vince Lombardi, Jr. captures the essence of his father with his words and wisdom. Every ministry leader needs to understand that great leaders can be grown and developed. If any coach was about fundamentals, it was Lombardi. Church is about fundamentals. Read it!

The Power of Charm
by Brian Tracy

Rad this one and your ability to lead and motivate boards and staff will increase. The book claims that even if you are a skilled, smart or experienced person, 85% of your ability to succeed at anything depends on your ability to win people to your vision. High value for a pastor.

Think Big Manifesto
by Michael Port

Don't think small. Think Big! While this is written for a secular audience there are many parts of this book which, when read with church eyes, are directly applicable to a pastor and the church.

Toy Box Leadership
by Ron Hunter

Toy Box Leadership is a secular book that, when read with "pastor eyes", can be a valuable resource for the local church pastor. You will find this book full of easy-to-learn and simple-to-use lessons to successfully lead and influence others whether at the board or staff level.

What Got You Here Won't Get You There
by Marshall Goldsmith

Pastors who are satisfied with the status quo have no need for this book. Those who see more spiritually lost people within driving distance of their church do. Goldsmith's final words of the book are, "You are here. You can get there! Let the journey begin." Pastors, that's you!

by Coach John Wooden with Steve Jamison

Steve Jamison captures the essence of Wooden. This book is more than X's and O's. It is more than a litany of quotes and stories from players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Sidney Wicks, Denny Crum, and Bill Walton. It is a book of telling passages about virtually every aspect of life. Wooden shares his personal philosophy on family, achievement, success, and excellence.


The Appeal
By John Grisham

The Appeal draws the reader into a plot of "little guy" versus "big corporation". Grisham has an amazing understanding of both the let and the right, socially and politically. In The Appeal he exaggerates to make his point and does it well. But then I am on the right, so maybe those on the left would say there is no exaggeration in this story at all. You make the call.

The Associate
by John Grisham

Vintage Grisham! This book is a break from all the pastoral leadership books you read. You won't become a better pastor, leader, visionary, etc. as a result of reading the book, but your mind will be fresher for having done so. Great book worth your time!

The Confession
by John Grisham

Gripping, soul searching read. You need a good book away from the "stuff" of ministry. 45ish Travis Boyette is a white miserable soul ready to confess. Dante Drumm is a black HS football star sentenced to death by a small town is east Texas for the murder committed by Boyette.

The Year of Living Biblically
by A.J. Jacobs

An editor at Esquire magazine and author of the New York Times bestseller, The Know-It-All, A.J. Jacobs takes a stab at trying to live by the Bible literally. You'll find fascinating how the secular Jewish author writes of his understanding of the Bible.

The Litigators
by John Grisham

You gotta love John Grisham. This guy, branded as America’s Favorite Storyteller, has done it again in The Litigators.  What I loved about this novel was the humor that spices up the book from beginning to end.  The Litigators is entertaining and worth the read. Grisham does not disappoint.


Adopted for Life
By Russell Moore

You know an author is on to something when he titles two of his chapters "Joseph of Nazareth vs. Planned Parenthood" and "Jim Crow in the Church Nursery." Then you'll love Russell Moore's answer to the questions, "Are they brothers?"

Confessions of an Insignificant Pastor
by Mark Elliott

Have you ever wondered if you are the only pastor that really is not all that sharp; is not sure what you're doing; has baggage emotions, and motives...and believe it or not, feels a bit like a yo-yo sometimes? Read the book, adhere to its words, and whether you feel insignificant or not, you will never quit.

Every Man's Battle
by Steve Arterburn & Fred Stoeker

American men are in a tough position. They live in a culture awash in sexual images available twenty-four hours a day through a variety of media. it is virtually impossible to avoid such temptations...but, thankfully, not impossible to rise above them.

From Debt to Life
by Dr. Kregg Hood

The publisher states, "Getting out of debt and taking control of your financial future is more than merely paying back all you owe and getting ahead. It is reclaiming your life that's been stolen by worry and freeing your life that has been shackled by creditors.

by Jerry Jenkins

I believe in preventative medicine, and when it comes to building in protection for your marriage, Jerry Jenkins' Hedges is at the top of the preventative medicine list. Jenkins uses the word picture of hedges to perfectly describe the work and attention needed for marriages to survive and thrive. He debunks the thought that once the couple says "I do" the protective hedge is automatically in place.

Speak to Win
by Brian Tracy

Speak to Win is a must-read. Pick it up today; apply its principles while asking God to do what only He can do with the foolishness of preaching. He who makes an eternal decision to follow Jesus as a result of hearing the words you said will win. That is amazing!

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
By Eric Metaxas

I read a good amount. Frequently I read very good books. Rarely do I read a book at the level of Bonhoeffer. I have a personal ranking system of 1-15. Only the Bible receives a 15. Bonhoeffer is one of only a handful of books I've ranked as a 14.

Intended for Pleasure
by Ed Wheat

Intended for Pleasure is the best book I’ve read on the subject of sexuality for husbands and wives.  It is practical in its description and approach while acknowledging the clear spiritual component of sexuality.  This book is a classic on the subject of sexuality.

Smart Couples Finish Rich
by David Bach

Normally pastors don’t spend much time thinking about how to finish life’s journey rich.  However, smart ones do plan their finances.  Smart Couples Finish Rich will help any pastoral family be better stewards of that which God has given them and draw a husband and wife closer together.

The Danger of Anger
by Teryl Todd

Dealing with the emotional pain of the past is often central to moving forward in the battle against anger.  If you are seeking answers to why you feel the way you do – the anger, the rage, the despair – you are not alone.  Don’t get mad. Read The Danger of Anger


Primary Purpose Small Groups
By Mark Elliott

If a pastor will read this book with a heart open to what God could do in their church through small groups - or what God could do to improve an already existing small group ministry - the sky is the limit to what He will do in discipleship through community.

Leading Small Groups With Purpose
by Steve Gladen

If you’re just starting out or you’re seasoned as a small group leader, this book is for you. I encourage those pastors and church leaders who have oversight of small groups to pick this book up for all their leaders. Our church did … and the results speak for themselves.


Carry On
By Scotty Gibbons

Carry On is one of the finest books I've ever read on student ministry. It is funny. It is poignant. It is real. It is clear. It is practical. It is spiritual. Above all else, its heart is to challenge youth pastors and leaders to reach this generation is a way that transcends tricks and trends. Its principles are universal in their application to cultures from east to west and north to south.