Bishop G’s Book Reviews: Jan – Mar 2013

The latest reading list from Bishop Goodpaster, reflecting on books read between January through March of 2013, with brief comments.

Boundary Spanning Leadership by Chris Ernst and Donna Chrobot-Mason

Comment: If there is one “leadership” book on this list, or in any of my previous lists, that should be a must read book, this is it. It may be one of the most significant books I have read in recent years, and I find myself constantly returning to it as we move forward in this conference and in our denomination. There is a very practical, workbook like feel here, along with key insights into how to solve problems, encourage creativity and innovation, and transform organizations. Spanning boundaries invites leaders to “transform limiting borders into limitless new frontiers.” (page 248)


Midnight Lunch: The 4 Phases of Team Collaboration Success from Thomas Edison’s Lab, by Sarah Miller Caldicott

Comment: Written by Edison’s great-grandniece, and herself a business consultant and speaker, this book provides fascinating insights into what is necessary to lead innovation in the twenty-first century. Drawing on Edison’s methods of creating teams and expanding understandings of how we collaborate, she provides a framework for our work together. I was particularly inspired in this reading because much of what we are beginning to practice and recover as a networked-connectional system (the UMC) finds roots in Edison’s teamwork. Caldicott helpfully reminds us that in order to move in collaborative ways, “a premium will be placed on workforce reskilling methods and the ability to form smart layers.” (page 250) In our “church” world, we must find new methods to communicate and live out the message of the Gospel.


FuturePerfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age by Steven Johnson

Comment: Often one book leads to another, and I chose this one after reading Caldicott’s book on collaboration. Here Johnson builds a strong case for the many ways our technology, our connections, and our networks lead to creativity and innovation. Given our Wesleyan heritage of connection and cooperation, we United Methodists should be moving forward with energy and passion. We can learn from books, research, and insights like Johnson’s. This one is worth an investment of some time.


Hamlet’s Blackberry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age, by William Powers

Comment: Speaking of connections, this one runs in the opposite direction. This book really spoke to me as one who is not totally into all of the social media outlets, but one who seems to spend an inordinate amount of time connected to the world. Powers traces several “advances” in technology through the ages: from Plato to Gutenberg and Shakespeare to Thoreau (there are 8 such moves). Each advance fundamentally changed our perspectives about the world and about life. How is this digital age impacting “life” and our ways of ordering our days? A very good read!


How Will You Measure Your Life? By Clayton Christensen

Comment: Excellent book, and one that I have used not only to reflect on where I am at this stage of my life, but also where the next years may lead. Christensen, who teaches at Harvard Business School, invites us to think about key questions that go deeper than merely being successful at what we do. At any point along our life-journey, he invites us to reflect on those things that really matter. He takes some surprising and inspiring directions, and in so doing has given us a carefully crafted way to think about how we measure our lives.


Lead Like Butler: Six Principles for Values-Based Leaders by Kent Millard and Judith Cebula

Comment: For those of us living in the basketball world of Carolina, the amazing story of the Butler basketball team over the last several years is well known. But there is more to the story than scores and upsets. Kent Millard, retired UM pastor at St. Luke UMC, Indianapolis and Judith Cebula, a professor at Butler University, relate the basic principles that undergird the program, and that Coach Brad Stevens seeks to impart to the players and the community. This is rich reading, and resonates with the kind of leadership that makes a difference in lives and, I believe, in our churches. The six principles are humility, passion, unity, servanthood, thankfulness, and accountability. The book highlights and expounds on these in wonderful ways.


Great by Choice by Jim Collins

Comment: This is Collins’ latest update after his previous three immensely popular books, including Good to Great. He discusses the components that several companies made over time that led not only to success but to greatness; and, he compares them to similar companies that made different choices and wound up extinct or declining. There is a great deal of research and formulas and charts here, but the key learnings are well worth an investment of time.


The Collected Sermons of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, edited and introduced by Isabel Best

Comment: I spent a day with each of the sermons included in this recently translated collection and have found them stimulating, thought-provoking, and inspiring. Each is introduced with a few paragraphs setting the stage and the context in which Bonhoeffer preached the sermon. The sermons come primarily from before the more familiar writings of his life, but one can already pick up the themes that would become so closely associated with Bonhoeffer.


Restart Your Church by Dottie Escobedo-Frank

Comment: As we continue to address some of the deep issues facing the United Methodist Church, many voices are converging to help point a way forward. There is a common concern for the future of the denomination, but more importantly for our calling to participate with God’s mission in the world. Escobedo-Frank, a pastor in Phoenix, Arizona, offers another perspective on what must happen in many of our churches. She draws on the Biblical image of death and resurrection and relates stories of her own experience in leading churches to “restart.” The book provides helpful reflections for local churches struggling with their current reality and future possibilities.


Change or Die by Alan Deutschman

Comment: Everyone today knows that change is happening and that it is happening rapidly. In fact, if one is trying to hold on to outdated, outmoded ways of functioning, organizing, or working, then that one is being left behind quickly. Deutschman suggests in this book how to navigate the changes and how to determine what we must do in order to thrive in this kind of world. Even though “change” is not a popular word in many church-circles, it is a reality around us.


Great Leaders Grow by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller

Comment: This is a helpful little book that compliments Deutschman’s book. It can be read quickly (told in the form of a story about an individual), but has some wonderful hints about how we GROW as leaders. Hint: “grow” is an acronym.


Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Comment: Sandberg is the COO at Facebook, and has written an important book on “women, work, and the will to lead.” This book, her TEDtalk, and various interviews have stirred quite a bit of publicity. She names the issues and concerns faced by women, recognizing that while progress has been made, there is still a long way to go in a world dominated by men in the highest levels of leadership. I found this book immensely insightful, helping me recognize and be aware of those issues that continue to plague us – especially in the church and the role of women, and the frustrating reluctance on the part of some of our churches to receive a woman as a pastor. As Sandberg writes in chapter 11, we must “understand and acknowledge how stereotypes and biases cloud our beliefs and perpetuate the status quo.” (Kindle reader, location #2362)