Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

Books by Andy Stanley

Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets: 5 Questions to Help You Determine Your Next Move by Andy Stanley. Zondervan. 192 pages. 2020

I have enjoyed Stanley’s work on leadership – books such as Visioneering, Next Generation Leader and Making Vision Stick – and his Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast. I read this book from the perspective of leadership, but the five questions pertain to all facets of our lives. The book goes over five questions, with plenty of illustrations, a primary application from scripture, and “decision”, to go with each question.
Stanley writes that good questions lead to better decisions, and better decisions lead to fewer regrets. The questions in the book are for us to ask ourselves every time we make a decision of any consequence. He tells us that if we can develop the discipline to pause and ask these five questions before making important decisions, we will make better decisions and have fewer regrets.
He writes that our decisions are how we control our lives. They will determine the story of our lives. Our decisions will determine the direction and the quality of our lives.
The five questions are:

  • The Integrity Question: Am I being honest with myself . . . really?
  • The Legacy Question: What story do I want to tell?
  • The Conscience Question: Is there a tension that deserves my attention?
  • The Maturity Question: What is the wise thing to do?
  • The Relationship Question: What does love require of me?

Below are a few of my takeaways about each of the five questions:

The Integrity Question Am I Being Honest with Myself . . . Really?

  • Self-leadership is a critical component to our success in every arena of life. You’ll never be a leader worth following if you don’t lead yourself well.
  • Exceptional self-leadership, not authority, is the key to sustained influence.
  • Your influence won’t last if you don’t lead yourself well first. Great leaders last because they lead themselves first.
  • If you aren’t honest about why you are choosing what you are choosing, you will have a difficult time taking responsibility for the outcome of your choosing.

The Legacy Question What Story Do I Want to Tell?

  • Every decision you make, every decision becomes a permanent part of your story. The story of your life.
  • Decision by decision, you are writing the story of your life.
  • When confronted with anything or anybody that has strong emotional appeal, press pause, not play.

The Conscience Question Is There a Tension That Deserves My Attention?

  • That internal hesitation, that red flag, is often God’s way of turning us in another direction.
  • Is there a tension that deserves your attention? If so, pay attention to that tension. That’s a decision you will never regret.

The Maturity Question What Is the Wise Thing to Do?

  • An option can be both not wrong and unwise at the same time.
  • Our greatest regrets are always preceded by a series of unwise decisions.
  • Unwise is the gateway to regret.
  • In light of your past experience, your current circumstances, and your future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do?

The Relationship Question What Does Love Require of Me?

  • This will be the question you will be most tempted not to answer honestly.
  • When unsure of what to say or do, ask what love requires of you.
  • We are to do unto others as our heavenly Father, through Christ, has done unto us.
  • There’s no guaranteed return on investment with this question.

Ask ItAsk It: The Question That Will Revolutionize How You Make Decisions by Andy Stanley. Multinomah. 208 pages. 2014 (Revised and updated edition of The Best Question Ever)
*** ½
Think back to some of the worst decisions you have made in your life. It may have been the person you married (or didn’t marry), the job you accepted (or didn’t accept), etc. What kind of thought process did you go through when you made that decision? Andy Stanley, a pastor in Atlanta and one of my favorite leadership teachers, helps us with decision making in this revised and updated version of one of his earlier books The Best Question Ever.
I highlighted a number of passages in this relatively short book and would like to share those with you below:
• This book is divided into six parts. In the first part, you’ll be introduced to our big question. It takes me a couple of chapters to get to it, so be patient. The second part explores some common (and dangerous) alternatives to asking our big question. In the next two parts, we’ll apply our question to two key areas of life: your time and your relationships. Then, in the fifth part, I’ll let you in on a secret known by all the world’s best decision makers. Finally, in the last part I’ll challenge you to make a decision that allows you to get the maximum benefit from this question.
• Some of our bad decisions simply embarrass us. Others scar us.
• When we watch people we know—or strangers for that matter—make foolish decisions, it’s as if they are strategically and intentionally setting out to mess up their lives.
• While nobody plans to mess up his life, the problem is that few of us plan not to. You don’t sit around looking for reasons to do the right thing; it’s the bad decisions that require creative reasoning.
• This human habit of self-deception can make our big question so uncomfortable to ask.
• Here’s what Paul wrote: Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. (Ephesians 5:15–17).
• The question that sets us up for success where it counts, the question that enables us to consistently apply the commands of the New Testament is this: What is the wise thing to do?
• Typically when making choices, we run our options and opportunities through a more generic and far less helpful grid. There are several variations, but the question we ask ourselves is this: Is there anything wrong with it?
• The Christian version goes like this: How close can I get to sin without actually sinning?
• One we have all asked at one time or another: How did I get myself into this mess?
• The moral of the story is, just because there isn’t a “Thou shalt not” attached to a situation does not necessarily mean it is a “Thou shalt.” What’s morally and culturally permissible is often not what’s best for us.
• The question he gave us is not, “Is there anything wrong with it?” The question is, “Is it the wise thing to do?” To foolproof your life, you must ask it of every invitation, every opportunity, every relationship.
• Every day we interface with a culture of sensuality, gluttony, and greed. Ours is a culture that encourages us in the most provocative ways to do everything in our power to try to satisfy appetites that can never be fully and finally satisfied.
• If you don’t pay attention, you will end up paying a price for your carelessness. If you aren’t intentionally cautious, you may end up unintentionally corralled by some vice you’ve always condemned.
• Paul’s command to “understand” God’s will is really an exhortation to face up to what we know in our hearts God would have us do.
• In light of your past experience, what is the wise thing to do?
• Your personal history is unique to you. And the sum of your past experiences predisposes you toward specific weaknesses and strengths in your relationships, finances, career, etc. For example, your personal history makes you more prone to temptation in some areas than in others. Consequently, what’s safe for some folks may not be safe for you. There are activities that others find it easy to walk away from while you are prone to overindulge. So every decision, invitation, and opportunity that comes your way needs to be filtered through this question: In light of my past experience, what’s the wise thing to do?
• Your past experience must be a grid through which you evaluate every decision. In light of my current circumstances, what is the wise thing to do?
• But this angle on our question goes beyond the moment. What’s wise in this season of life may be unwise in the next. And vice versa.
• So in light of what’s going on in your life right now, what is the wise thing for you to do? As you consider your frame of mind, your emotional state, and even your physical health, what is the wise thing to do? As you consider your current responsibilities and commitments, things that a year from now may not be a factor, what is the wise thing to do? As you examine the status of your finances, what is the wise thing to do?
• Again, life is seasonal. What is appropriate today may be completely inappropriate a month from now. What is foolish today may be prudent tomorrow. It is not enough to determine what is legal, permissible, or even practical. As a Christ follower, you have been called to approach life with a different standard. So you must ask, “For me, in light of my past experience and my current season of life, what is the wise thing to do?”
• In light of my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do?
• You know people who have robbed themselves of their preferred futures. Too much debt, too much alcohol, too many risks, too many relationships, too many nights out, too many missed classes. We have all watched somebody we care about trade his or her dreams for a moment.
• As a parent, I constantly urged my kids to make today’s decisions in light of tomorrow’s hopes and dreams. The future is what brings today’s choices into proper focus. Making choices with the end in mind goes a long way toward ensuring a happy ending. Today’s decisions must be evaluated in light of how they will impact and shape tomorrow.
• So let’s get specific. In light of where you want to be financially in ten years, what’s the wise thing to do right now? What do you need to start or stop doing financially?
• If you are single, in hopes of one day finding the man or woman of your dreams, what is the wise way to conduct your relationships now? What are you doing that has the potential to rob you of your preferred future? What do you want to tell your future spouse about your past relationships? Live accordingly. If you are married and your dream is to finish life together with your spouse, what options do you need to take off the table? What’s out there that could steal your dream? What precautions need to be taken? What’s the wise thing to do relationally?
• In light of how you envision your relationship with your children when they’re teenagers or in college or married with children of their own, what is the wise thing to do now? What practices would you be wise to incorporate now into your parenting repertoire? Where do you need to reprioritize?
• What I’m asking you to do now is to just start practicing asking yourself that question: If I were a wise man or wise woman, in light of my past experience, my current circumstances, and my future hopes and dreams, what’s the wise thing to do?
• Start getting in the habit throughout your day, decision by decision, of calling our question to mind: What’s the wise thing for me to do here?
• Let’s start with the character Solomon described as simple. The reason such people are unwise is not that they’re against wisdom, but that they just haven’t lived long enough to know better. They’re simply too young. The simple are the naive, the clueless. They’re not bad; they’re not evil; they’re not dumb. They’re not trying to ruin their lives. They just lack something older people have: experience.
• He called his next character a fool. The difference between the simple person and the fool is that the fool knows his choices are unwise. He knows from experience. But the fool just doesn’t care.
• The mocker—or in some translations, the scoffer—is the fool on steroids. It’s the man or woman who not only doesn’t care about the difference between right and wrong, wise and unwise, but is also constantly mocking or scoffing at other people who pursue what’s right and what’s wise. Mockers are cynical, critical, condescending, and controlling. Bottom line? You can’t win with them. They just don’t listen.
• In light of my past experience, my current responsibilities, and my future hopes and dreams, what is the wisest way to invest my time?
• I will keep this simple because this is actually a very simple principle. I’ve broken it down into five statements. Here’s the first:
1. There is a cumulative value to investing small amounts of time in certain activities over a long period. Exercise has a compounding effect. The consistent, incremental investment of time makes a difference.

2. There are rarely immediate consequences for neglecting single installments of time in any arena of life. It’s deceiving but true that we rarely see any immediate consequences for neglecting a single installment of time in any arena of life. But if neglect becomes your pattern, you will eventually bump up against our third principle:

3. Neglect has a cumulative effect.

4. There is no cumulative value to the urgent things we allow to interfere with the important things.
• The random pursuits that interrupt our important routines don’t add up to anything. Well, actually, they add up to a lot of wasted time. There’s never any cumulative value to all the things we do instead of the things we know are truly important.
• When random urgent activities constantly interfere with strategic deposits of time, it is like throwing away our most precious commodity. It is worse than wasting time. We waste our lives.
• This principle explains why we don’t have more to show for our time. It all gets gobbled up with random, unquantifiable activities—activities that rob us of what’s most important. When you add up all the what-I-did-instead-ofs, they always equal zero.

5. In the critical arenas of life, you cannot make up for lost time.
• The important areas of life require small deposits all along the way. And if you miss those opportunities, they are lost forever.
• In light of your past experience, your current circumstances, and your future hopes and dreams, how should you be allocating your time? What do you need to add to your schedule? What should be subtracted?
• Nothing has stolen more dreams, dashed more hopes, broken up more families, and messed up more people psychologically than our propensity to disregard God’s commands regarding sexual purity. Most of the major social ills in America are caused by, or fueled by, the misuse of our sexuality.
• In time you may find you are able to laugh about wasted money and poor time management. But when it comes to moral failure, time doesn’t help. Nobody ever laughs about an affair, a divorce, a sexual addiction, or abuse. In the arena of moral failure, the regret runs deep and the pain can traverse generations. Chances are, your greatest regrets in life fall somewhere within this category.
• When you’re in the middle of it, you think you are the only one.
• While the outcomes of sexual sin are predictable, the decisions that set us up to sin sexually are equally predictable. And—and this is a big and—our question will enable you to see those decisions for what they really are. If you’re willing to face up to the fact that your temptation, circumstances, and feelings are not unique to you, this question will empower you to make choices that will set you up for success rather than failure in this crucial arena of life.
• Our greatest moral regrets are always preceded by a series of unwise choices. Not wrong choices, not impermissible, not illegal, but unwise. We choose ourselves to the brink of disaster because none of the choices we make along the way are “wrong.” So we don’t hesitate. Then we defend our actions with the anemic excuse, “I couldn’t help myself,” followed by the equally ridiculous question, “How did I get into this mess?”
• How did we get ourselves into such messes? We made a series of unwise choices—unwise choices that sent us beyond the point of no return. The names and faces change, but the sequences and outcomes are tragically similar.
• Every poor moral decision is prefaced by a series of unwise choices.
• Think once again about your greatest moral regret. Isn’t it true that your decision to cross a certain moral line was predicated by a series of choices that led to that final and most regretful one? And isn’t it true that you marched right along, justifying every choice with, There’s nothing wrong with … And you were right. There probably was nothing wrong with most of those preliminary choices. But looking back, it’s all too clear, isn’t it? One “nothing wrong with” choice led to another, until the temptation was irresistible.
• Each of us, at a personal level, must scramble back to some long-abandoned standard of purity and modesty. If we don’t, we will always find ourselves on the brink of moral disaster. Culture has drawn the line of decency far too close to the edge. To accept the standard handed to us by our culture is to live and relate in a very dangerous place.
• You never intended to get yourself into any of the situations you now regret. Right? Your financial, moral, professional, and relational regrets all came about unintentionally.
• Your own experience substantiates the fact that intentions are pretty much a worthless defense against temptation and regret. It takes more than good intentions to cross the finish line in any area of life.
• When you cross certain lines sexually, there are always consequences, sometimes for the rest of your life.
• Let me be blunt. To leave yourself no margin for error morally is about the most insensitive thing you can do to those you love.
• In light of what is at stake, what is the wise thing for you to do? In light of what you want for your marriage and your family, what is the wise thing to do? In light of the extreme consequences associated with moral failure, what extreme measures are you willing to take? To what extreme are you willing to go to protect what’s most important to you?
• Having waded with broken people through just about every scenario imaginable, I thought it might be helpful, if not meddlesome, to share the top five environments in which the seeds for moral failure are sown in the life of a married person. And let me go ahead and state up front, there’s nothing wrong with any of these things: • Chatting online with members of the opposite sex • Dinner after work with members of the opposite sex • Working with a personal trainer of the opposite sex • Counseling with members of the opposite sex and Ladies’ night out dancing while husbands stay home. I’ve seen so much heartbreak stemming from these five situations that it is easy for me to eliminate these as options for my life.
• Wisdom dictates that each of us sets standards that will keep us out of harm’s way. These should be boundaries that are so far from the line of regret that, were we to cross one, we would suffer little or no consequences.
• Sexual sin is in a category all its own. It is the most dangerous kind of sin. Sexual sin wreaks havoc with the soul, whether male or female. The shame runs deep and the regret runs wide, often seeping into every facet of a person’s life.
• If your past is dotted with moral failure, then it would be wise to establish extraordinarily conservative boundaries. Your past points to the fact that you are more susceptible in this area than the average person; consequently, you can’t be content with average boundaries.
• What should you do if you are genuinely committed to doing the wise thing but you aren’t sure which of your options qualifies as the wise choice?
• We have all made decisions in the heat of the moment only to regret them later. Excitement over a person, product, or opportunity will skew our perspectives.
• We’ve all made one or more unwise decisions in the throes of anger, greed, guilt, loneliness, or jealousy.
• It is next to impossible to discern the voice of wisdom when our emotions are raging.
• Our ignorance—or shall we say, lack of expertise—can also put wisdom out of reach.
• Eventually we all bump up against our limitations. We find ourselves in situations where we are expected to make wise decisions but feel totally inadequate to do so.
• Wise people know when they don’t know, and they’re not afraid to go to those who do know. When wise people bump up against their limitations, they stop and ask for help.
• Solomon had more to say about the importance of seeking wise counsel than all the other biblical writers combined. Here is a random sampling: Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance. (Proverbs 1:5) The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. (Proverbs 12:15) Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. (Proverbs 19:20).
• For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers. (Proverbs 11:14) Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22).
• Wisdom seeks counsel. No one rises above the need for wise counsel.
• We are most vulnerable—the three areas that typically prove to be the sources of our greatest regret: how we allocate our time, spend our money, and handle our relationships.
• You are not the only person affected by your choices.
• So since your personal decisions will be seen by, judged by, and experienced by others, why not involve others to begin with?
• Men and women who consistently make the right moves relationally, professionally, and financially are those who seek input from others.
• You will never be all you’re capable of being unless you tap the wisdom of the wise people around you.
• If asking yourself, “What’s the wise thing for me to do?” is so helpful, almost equally as helpful is asking someone else, “What do you think is the wisest thing for me to do?”
• The Bible has a term for the person who refuses wise counsel: fool.
• Asking for input is evidence of wisdom.
• You have to act. You have to follow through.
• How do you expect to make wise decisions regarding your family, marriage/love life, and career if you are not willing to submit to the promptings of the One who knows more about those things than you or I ever will?
• Throughout this book, I have challenged you to ask yourself, “What is the wise thing for me to do?” In the previous section, I encouraged you to broaden your audience to a few choice and respected friends. But to fully leverage our question, you need to address it to your heavenly Father. For he is the source of all wisdom, and wisdom begins by properly aligning ourselves with who God is.
• Our willingness to ask and respond to this question depends upon our willingness to make an important decision—the decision to fully submit our lives to our heavenly Father. This is where wisdom begins.
• The book includes a helpful Study Guide, with the grouped according to the six parts of the book.

When Work and Family CollideWhen Work & Family Collide: Keeping Your Job from Cheating Your Family by Andy Stanley. Multnomah Books. 160 pages. Reprint Edition 2011.
*** ½

Andy Stanley has become my favorite leadership author/speaker over the past year. I recently read this book, which was originally published as Choosing to Cheat. John Maxwell, another of my favorite leadership authors/speakers wrote the “Introduction” to the book. I highlighted a number of passages in this short book and want to share some of them with you below:

  • I’ve spent hundreds of hours with men and women who’ve cheated their families for the sake of their career goals. They all admitted knowing there was a problem.
  • We all wrestle with the tension between work and family. Regardless of which side of the equation you’re on, you know what it’s like to deal with the endless cycle of guilt, anger, jealousy, and rejection. Left unattended, these seething emotions have the potential to erode the foundations of even the strongest marriages.
  • In chapter 1 you’ll be introduced to some friends of mine whose struggles typify the experiences of many. In chapters 2 through 5, we’ll focus on the dynamic created in the heart of a spouse or child who feels cheated. Then in part 2 we’ll develop a strategy for change. The principles in these final five chapters are drawn largely from the life of a young man who found himself with a dilemma similar to ours. The primary difference being that his life, not merely his livelihood, was on the line.
  • When Work and Family Collide is about establishing priorities. A priority is something you put ahead of something else.
  • Everybody holds back, stops short, cuts corners, and sets boundaries. You have to. You have several important calls on your life. You have career potential to fulfill, a spouse to love, a family to raise, a ministry to perform. The list goes on. Each of these things has tremendous merit in your life and for the world at large. None of them should be neglected.
  • So let me take some pressure off. Your problem is not discipline. Your problem is not organization. Your problem is not that you have yet to stumble onto the perfect schedule. And your problem is not that the folks at home demand too much of your time. The problem is this: there’s not enough time to get everything done that you’re convinced—or others have convinced you—needs to get done.
  • As a result, someone or something isn’t going to get what he wants from you … what she needs from you … what he deserves from you … certainly not what she expects from you. There’s no way around it. There’s just not enough time in your day to be all things to all people. You’re going to have to hold back somewhere.
  • Collision between work and family is inevitable.
  • There are basically two things that shape your sense of identity more than anything else: your work and your family.
  • That’s why one of the first questions asked when two people are getting acquainted is, “So, what do you do?” And not far behind are questions such as: “Are you married?” “Do you have any children?” “Do you have any brothers and sisters?”
  • Yet both work and family originate with the same Source: God. He created them to peacefully coexist. The tension between the two is understandable, but not unavoidable.
  • Before sin, before the fall of man, before the curse, there was work. God made man and placed him in the garden to work. From the very beginning, he intended for man to work. Before there was even a family to support, God put Adam to work. It was part of his original plan.
  • Whereas work is task focused, the family is relationship focused. One is about doing, while the other is about loving. In one environment we find our worth through accomplishment. In the other we find our value simply by who our relatives are. Work is about doing. Family is about being.
  • In God’s original plan there was no conflict between work and family. But when sin entered the world, conflict was introduced into both environments.
  • The point is, work—whether in or out of the house—can become not only an occupation but also a preoccupation. When that happens, the task steals a piece of us that belongs somewhere else. Before long our families begin to sense it. The people who deserve your undivided attention aren’t attended to while the projects that could wait are.
  • Your Creator doesn’t define your life by your career achievements or the neatness of your pantry. And neither does he define life by the number of hours you spend with your family. There’s no lasting contentment in any of those things. A temporary sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, yes. Contentment, no. Contentment is found neither in the marketplace nor the family alone. It’s found when we align our priorities with his as it relates to both areas of responsibility.
  • And let me be clear: The place doesn’t determine the problem. Stay-at-home moms and dads can just as easily cheat those around them. Whether working outside the home or inside the home, there’s a strong tendency to become preoccupied with tasks—agendas and projects and “to do” lists. In either place, you’ll be tempted to make work a priority and neglect your most important relationships. Because of our proclivity to focus our attentions on things that stroke our egos (checking off work tasks often does that), it’s all too easy for us to cheat those who matter most.
  • Do you know what your family wants from you more than anything else? “Love?” you say. That’s part of it. But it goes deeper than that. They want to feel accepted. In practical terms they want to feel like they’re your priority.
  • They want to feel like your priority. It’s not enough for them to be your priority. They must feel like it.
  • When you take loyalty that belongs to your family and give it to someone else—your boss, manager, supervisor, co-workers, potential clients, or investors—family members don’t feel as if you aren’t being as loyal as you should be. They feel rejected.
  • When you can’t have dinner with your family because you “can’t get out of” having dinner with a client who just flew into town, you send a message to your family: “These clients are more important to me than you.” I know that’s not how you feel. But how you feel is irrelevant. Explaining the importance of the dinner meeting may get them to nod their heads in agreement. But the message is still the same: “Tonight, my priority is somebody else.”
  • The advantage of learning to monitor the hearts of our family members is that it enables us to avoid a crisis rather than figure out how to recover from one.
  • Everyone’s busy. All of us have more to do than we’ll ever get done. We all have to prioritize some things and slight others. When you do this strategically, you leverage your busyness for the sake of what’s most important. Then you communicate the message our families long to feel: “You are important to me. You’re more important to me than anybody or anything else in my world.”
  • Every time you cheat your family—no matter how trivial—it represents a draw against someone’s emotional strength. Every time.
  • Where you spend your time is an indication of where your loyalties lie. In effect, you pledge your allegiance to the person or thing that receives your time.
  • You see, this principle cuts both ways. There’s a price to pay either way you go. But for some reason we only look into the future through one set of lenses. And then when our misprioritizing comes home to roost, we wonder what happened.
  • If you’re ready to redirect your priorities, three things are probably going to be required. I say “probably” because I think this narrative is an illustration, not a blueprint. First, you’ve got to make up your mind. You’ve got to decide to quit cheating at home before you know how you’re going to pull it off, before you know how things are going to sort themselves out. Second, once you’ve made up your mind, you need to come up with a plan—an exit strategy from your current schedule—and present it to your employer. And, like Daniel’s request, your request may appear absolutely ridiculous. But that’s only because you don’t know what God may want to do on your behalf. Third, like Daniel, you need to set up a test—a trial for the plan.
  • So let’s put some feet on it. Commit. That was the first step for Daniel, and it’s the first step for you and me. It all begins with a decision—before you know how the details are going to work out. You may not know how your boss is going to react. You can’t predict what will happen financially or with your position at work. But in spite of the uncertainty, you can make up your mind not to cheat your spouse or your family any longer, no matter what. End of conversation/
  • Reprioritizing your world around your family is not just a good idea; it’s a God idea. As a Christian, I don’t think I have any options when it comes to establishing my priorities. To ask my family to take the leftovers is more than insensitive. It flies in the face of everything we’re taught in the New Testament about the family.
  • Obedience in this area opens you up to the blessings and faithfulness of God at home and at work.
  • On the human side of the equation, there are two big benefits to making up your mind in the face of uncertainty.
  • You need something to reverse your momentum. A conviction has the power to do just that.
  • When you commit to a direction, it narrows your options. And that in turn forces you to focus only on the options that will lead to the desired results.
  • On many occasions I’ve talked with men who confided that it wasn’t their work that was the point of contention in their homes. It was a hobby. For some it was the time they spent at the gym. For others their mistress was the golf course. For one very close friend, it was his bicycle.
  • Are there accounts you need to hand off? Are there some out-of-town meetings that need to be handled on the phone? Is there an offer you need to refuse? A promotion you need to give back? Once you’ve made up your mind, it will become all too clear what stands in the way of your being able to focus on your commitment to reprioritize.
  • What exactly are you committing to do? Spending more time at home and less time at the office isn’t specific enough. The more specific you are about the results you feel called to achieve, the easier it will be to follow through. And the easier it will be for others to hold you accountable.
  • So what’s your nonnegotiable? What does it look like? Does it mean leaving the office every day at five thirty, regardless? Does it mean never missing one of your children’s performances or ball games? What does this commitment look like in your world?
  • Let’s start with this question: What change would your spouse most like you to make in regard to your schedule?
  • But that was the commitment I made. Leaving at four o’clock and working a forty-five-hour workweek were my nonnegotiables.
  • My responsibility is to prioritize my life in accordance with the priorities laid out in Scripture. That includes doing my work as unto the Lord and loving my wife as Christ loved the church. In other words, working hard when I’m at work and then going home and forgetting about it.
  • I feel so strongly about this principle that I encourage our staff to follow suit. “Cheat at work,” I tell ’em. “Cheat me. But don’t you dare cheat at home.”
  • If you were to ask your spouse and kids what schedule changes they would love to see you make, what would they say? Maybe you should ask.
  • The things that will make or break you professionally are not related to the number of hours you work. A sixty-hour workweek doesn’t guarantee you more success than a forty-five-hour workweek.
  • Think about where you are today professionally. Consider your success for just a moment. Are you where you are today as a result of the number of hours you’ve put in? Is there an actual correlation between how many hours you’ve worked and the success you’ve enjoyed? I would venture to guess that your success is the result of opportunities that came your way, lucky breaks, hunches you followed up on, people you met by accident, and risks you decided to take.
  • It’s important that you associate your professional success with those things that really make a difference. And the length of your workweek doesn’t play as significant a role as you might at first think. There are other factors that impact your success more significantly than your schedule.
  • But the opposite is true in family life. Happily married couples never attribute their success to unexpected opportunities, market conditions, luck, or good timing. You’ve never met a healthy family who chalked up their success to being in the right place at the right time. With family, success is always related to time.
  • This is why it makes so much sense to entrust our careers to our heavenly Father. For only he controls those things that make the most significant difference in our professions. This is why it’s safe to ask him to fill the gaps at work when it’s time for us to go home.
  • The goal is to negotiate your way into a more manageable and flexible schedule.
  • The fact that you’ve decided to make a change in your life doesn’t necessarily mean the folks at work are under any obligation to change. There’s no value in punishing your employer. Your attitude and approach should be seasoned with diplomacy and tact. Besides, the source of your frustration is not your employer. It’s the decisions you’ve made in response to the demands of your employer and the marketplace in general. Nobody forced you to work there. It was your decision. You, not they, must bear the consequences.
  • Depending on your job situation, this approach may call for a great deal of candor with your employer. The more non-confrontational your personality, the more difficult it will be for you to actually approach your boss or supervisor with whatever plan you come up with. You may be tempted to simply start cutting out early, leaving her with a false impression, living with the hope that she doesn’t discover that you aren’t around as much. But that’s not what we’re suggesting.

Essentially, Daniel did three things:

  1. He asked for permission to change his work conditions.
  2. He listened to the objections from his supervisor.
  3. He proposed a test that took into account his supervisor’s concerns.
  • When you’re in a position where you aren’t free to adjust your schedule without running it by someone first, Daniel’s approach has a lot of merit: Address the issue directly. Ask; don’t demand. Offer alternatives.
  • If the answer’s no, just thank the boss for his time and go back to work. Now’s not the time to communicate your inflexibility on this issue. Wait. Give God an opportunity to work. As an employer, I know there have been many occasions that I’ve said no to a request and then changed my mind the next day, once I had an opportunity to think about
  • Here’s where you have something in common with Daniel. His overseer’s primary concern was performance, not diet. That’s your employer’s primary concern as well. The real issue is not the number of hours we spend in the office; it’s productivity that matters.
  • The next step for you, whether you report directly to someone else or not, is to set up a trial.
  • Set up a trial. Tell your family what you intend to do. Establish an objective way to measure your productivity. Set a time limit, preferably thirty days, and stick with your schedule. Come home on time. Limit your travel.
  • Through the years I’ve challenged hundreds of men and women to follow Daniel’s example. Again and again those who have taken me up on the challenge come back with remarkable stories to tell. Stories that often border on the supernatural; events that hint of divine intervention:
  • On the domestic front, things are always better as well. Men, especially, talk about how much more they enjoy going home.
  • You’ll never know what God is willing to do on your behalf until you’re willing to step out and to trust him. When your obedience intersects with his faithfulness, you’ll sense his divine presence. You’ll experience the intervention of the Father. God honors those who honor him. Honor him at home and experience his blessing there. Honor him in the marketplace and look for him to show up there as well.
  • I don’t believe for a minute that God guarantees us a salary upgrade if we obey him. But I do know that God honors those who place their faith in him.
  • Why give your ultimate loyalty to an organization where your value is conditional upon your ability to perform? Why betray those whose loyalty is unconditional? Why devote so much of yourself to something you know you’ll leave, and so little time to those you’ll eventually come home to? It doesn’t make sense, does it? Yet without a conscious decision to do otherwise, that’s exactly what most of us are prone to do.:
  • I want to urge you to take the thirty-day challenge. Make up your mind not to cheat at home for thirty days. Mark it on your calendar. Sit down with your spouse and determine exactly what that will look like. And then start!
  • It has been said before. It’s worth saying again. Nobody gets to the end of his life and wishes he’d spent more time at the office. You won’t be the first.

The book includes discussion questions to help you get the most from this book and to apply what you learn to your life. If you’re part of a group that’s going through this book and meeting weekly to discuss it, you may want to structure a four-week course as follows:

Week One: Introduction and Chapters 1 and 2

Week Two: Chapters 3, 4, and 5

Week Three: Chapters 6 and 7

Week Four: Chapters 8, 9, and 10

Or, for a slower pace, you can simply read and discuss one chapter each week.


Enemies of the Heart

Enemies of the Heart: Breaking Free from the Four Emotions that Control You by Andy Stanley. Multnomah. 224 pages. 2011. Audio book ready by Lloyd James.

I first heard a few lectures on the topics covered in this book on the Andy Stanley Leadership podcast. I listened to the audio book, read well by Lloyd James, who has read several Christian books. This was the free audio book of the month from Christian Audio ( not long ago.

Over the past several months, my heart has hardened due to circumstances that have taken place in my life and the lives of those I care dearly about, so I thought that this would be a good time to listen to this book to help me with my heart condition.

Stanley looks at what he feels are four major issues with our hearts, the emotions of guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy. He looks at how they infiltrate our lives and damage relationships. Left unchallenged, they can destroy our homes, career and relationships.

He summarizes the four issues as follows:

• Guilt- You owe someone else

• Anger- Someone owes you

• Greed- You owe yourself

• Jealousy- God owes you

Stanley gives suggestions on how to battle each of these major heart issues. In summary they are:

• Guilt – Confession

• Anger – Forgiveness

• Greed – Generosity

• Jealousy – Celebration

Below are some helpful quotes from the book:

God’s decision to forgive Peter required the death of his Son; Peter’s decision to forgive those who had offended him would cost him little more than his pride. The same is true for us.

In the shadow of my hurt, forgiveness feels like a decision to reward my enemy. But in the shadow of the cross, forgiveness is merely a gift from one undeserving soul to another. Forgiveness is the gift that ensures my freedom from a prison of bitterness and resentment.

The Rolling Stone were right when they sang “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”.

Here’s a question every angry man and woman needs to consider: How long are you going to allow people you don’t even like — people who are no longer in your life, maybe even people who aren’t even alive anymore — to control your life? How long?

The root of anger is the perception that something has been taken. Something is owed you, and now a debt to debtor relationship has been established.

Peace is a fruit of the Spirit, not the byproduct of accumulated wealth.

Greed is supported by an endless cast of what-ifs. Greedy people can never have enough to satisfy the need they feel in light of every conceivable eventuality.

Just as Jesus predicted, what originates in the secret place won’t always remain a secret. … How do we guard — or maybe it would be more appropriate to say, guard against — our hearts? How do we monitor what’s going on in that secret place that has the potential to go public at any moment?

Every arena of life intersects with what’s going on in our hearts. Everything passes through on its way to wherever it’s going. Everything.

Your heart is out of sync with the rhythm it was created to maintain.

Behavior isn’t always an accurate indicator of what’s going on inside.

Show me an angry person and I’ll show you a hurt person.

People spend much of their lives waiting for debts to be paid that cannot be paid.

It is when our hearts are stirred that we become most aware of what they contain.

Anger gains its strength from secrecy.

These enemies of the heart (guilt, anger, greed, jealousy) cannot withstand the light of exposure.

While it’s true that you can’t undo what’s been done, it’s equally true that you don’t have to let the past control your future.

Greed hides behind several virtues.

I’ve never met anyone who regretted a good habit.

Guilty people are usually repeat offenders. And as long as you’re carrying a secret, as long as you’re trying to ease your conscience by telling God how sorry you are, you’re setting yourself up to repeat the past. However, confession – the way God designed confession to be applied – breaks the cycle of sin and guilt.

Public confession has the power to purge our hearts of the guilt that keeps us from living out in the open; secret confession does not.

The reason you still feel guilty about things in your past is because they’re still unresolved.

The penalty for our sin, insofar as heaven and hell are concerned, has been dealt with once and for all. The consequences of our sins are a different matter altogether.

Why pollute my heart with guilt in an effort to protect a reputation I may not have anyway?

A victim will always have an excuse.

Simply put, forgiveness is the decision to cancel a debt.

Your pain isn’t a trophy to show off. It’s not a story to tell. It’s potentially poison to your soul. To refuse to forgive is to choose to self-destruct.

In the shadow of my hurt, forgiveness feels like a decision to reward my enemy.

But in the shadow of the cross, forgiveness is merely a gift from one undeserving soul to another. Forgiveness is the gift that ensures my freedom from a prison of bitterness and resentment.

As a believer, I’m called and liberated to view forgiveness from the perspective of the cross.

If you’re a Christian, you aren’t expected to treat others the way you’ve been treated by others; you’ve been called to treat people the way you’ve been treated by your Father in heaven. You don’t forgive because the other person deserves it’ you forgive because you’ve been forgiven.

In the scriptures forgiveness is never presented as a feeling; it’s always described as a decision.

Trying to forget a debt isn’t the same as canceling it.

General forgiveness doesn’t heal specific hurts.

You cannot cancel a debt that you haven’t clearly identified.

Your memories are not your enemies. Memories are simply memories. What you do with them will determine their impact. Truly forgiving doesn’t always entail truly forgetting.

Greed is always looking for something ‘good’ to hide behind.

When we don’t have enough, we wonder why. Why not wonder when we have more than enough.

Greed is not a feeling; it’s a refusal to act.

Greed is evidenced not by how you feel but by what you do.

The fact is, the common denominator in all my relational conflicts is ME.

A parent with secrets or a secret life will not create an environment of openness in the home.

Home environments mirror the hearts of those who head the home.

When it comes to shaping our children’s hearts, modeling will always win over instruction.

Confess, forgive, give generously, and celebrate the success of others. These are the habits that keep a heart free from painful clutter.

Before sin, there was lust.

Guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy weaken our resolve against sexual temptation.

The book is very practical, an easy read (or listen), and offers direction from scripture to help you fight back and take charge of the feelings that can control you, and to restore your broken relationships. It includes a helpful discussion guide, which is excellent for personal application, and small group discussion.

A question that the reader can ask after finishing this book is:

Which one of these enemies do I struggle with and what am I going to do to combat it?


VisioneeringVisioneering: God’s Blueprint for Developing and Maintaining Vision by Andy Stanley. Multnomah Books. 272 pages. 2005. Audiobook read by Lloyd James.
Andy Stanley has become my favorite leadership author/speaker – through his books and excellent Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast. He will be one of the speakers at the 2014 Leadercast event, hosted locally by Second Presbyterian Church in downtown Bloomington.

In this book, he uses the biblical story of Nehemiah and his 20 Building Blocks to illustrate vision. He builds a compelling case for the necessity of a clear, God-ordained vision for each of the roles of your life.

He describes visioneering as a preferred future, a destination. Visioneering is the engineering of a vision. It’s the process one follows to develop and maintain vision. Vision is a clear mental picture of what could be, fueled by the conviction that it should be.

Stanley illustrates visioneering as:

Visioneering =Inspiration + Conviction + Action + Determination + Completion

His 20 Building Blocks are:

  1. A vision begins as a concern.
  2. A vision does not necessarily require immediate action.
  3. Pray for opportunities and plan as if you expect God to answer your prayers.
  4. God is using your circumstances to position and prepare you to accomplish His vision for your life.
  5. What God originates, he orchestrates.
  6. Walk before you talk; investigate before you initiate.
  7. Communicate your vision as a solution to a problem that must be addressed immediately.
  8. Cast your vision to the appropriate people at the appropriate time.
  9. Don’t expect others to take greater risks or make greater sacrifices than you have.
  10. Don’t confuse your plans with God’s vision.
  11. Visions are refined – they don’t change; plans are revised – they rarely stay the same.
  12. Respond to criticism with prayer, remembrance, and if necessary, a revision of the plan.
  13. Visions thrive in an environment of unity; they die in an environment of division.
  14. Abandon the vision before you abandon your moral authority.
  15. Don’t get distracted.
  16. There is divine potential in all you envision to do.
  17. The end of a God-ordained vision is God.
  18. Maintaining a vision requires adherence to a set of core beliefs and behaviors.
  19. Visions require constant attention.
  20. Maintaining a vision requires bold leadership.

There is much of value in this book, and I would recommend that all leaders read it. A few takeaways are:

  • Vision takes praying and planning.
  • Faith is the essential ingredient of visioning.
  • God given visions don’t always seem practical.
  • A vision is always a solution to a problem.
  • Vision has a price. “Sacrifice”

In addition to using Nehemiah’s story, Stanley uses several stories throughout the book to illustrate his points about vision.

Here are a few of the best quotes from the book:

  • Vision-driven people are motivated people. Find me a man or woman who lacks motivation and I’ll show you someone with little or no vision. Ideas, yes. Dreams, maybe. Vision, not a chance.
  • Vision will prioritize your values. A clear vision has the power to bring what’s most important to the surface of your schedule and lifestyle.
  • Dreamers dream about things being different. Visionaries envision themselves making a difference.
  • God inspired visions ultimately lead back to God.
  • In order to share your vision convincingly, you must be able to state the problem your vision addresses along with a solution to the problem.
  • Any vision worth pursuing will demand sacrifice and risk. You will be called upon to give up the actual good for the potential best.
  • Be stubborn about the vision. Be flexible with your plan.
  • Your influence is far more critical to the success of your vision than your position.
  • Moral authority is not achieved overnight. It is not something you can manufacture at will. Moral authority is developed through a proper response to circumstances, circumstances over which you have no control.
  • As Christians, we do not have a right to take our talents, abilities, experiences, opportunities, and education and run off in any direction we please. We lost that right at Calvary. …At the same time, we have no right to live visionless lives either. If God—think about it—if God has a vision for what you are to do with your allotment of years, you had better get in on it. What a tragedy to miss it. Missing out on God’s plan for our lives must be the greatest tragedy this side of eternity.
  • What could be and should be can’t be until God is ready for it to be.
  • Three important things are taking place while we wait:
  1. The vision matures in us.
  2. We mature in preparation for the vision.
  3. God is at work behind the scenes preparing the way.”
  • Prayer is critical to vision development. Here’s why: We see what we are looking for; we often miss what we don’t expect to see. …Prayer keeps us looking. Prayer keeps the burden fresh. It keeps our eyes and hearts in an expectant mode. Prayer doesn’t force God’s hand. But it keeps us on the lookout for His intervention. Prayer sensitizes us to subtle changes in the landscape of our circumstances.
  • God is using your circumstances to prepare you to accomplish His vision for your life. Your present circumstances are part of the vision. You are not wasting your time. You are not spinning your wheels. You are not wandering in the wilderness. If you are ‘seeking first’ His kingdom where you are, then where you are is where He has positioned you. And He has positioned you there with a purpose in mind.
  • An agonizingly important principle: what always precedes how. You will know what God has put in your heart to do before you know how He intends to bring it about. …How is never a problem for God. It is usually a big problem for us. But how is God’s specialty.
  • I think it is safe to assume that most Christians are not attempting anything that requires God’s intervention. They are not looking for God to do anything special. They are not aware that they need Him to do anything special. They are trusting that He will step in once they breathe their last breath. But other than that, they live as if they have everything under control. If you want to know how you score on this issue, listen to your prayers and prayer requests. What do you pray for? What are the things you find yourself praying for night after night? Those are your passions. Those are the things that matter most to you. Pretty scary, huh? A little embarrassing? Somewhat self-centered? What was your response the last time someone asked you for a prayer request? Did you have to think for a moment? Was your response kind of … well … less than inspiring? Or did your eyes light up as you thought about that thing, that person, that ministry you were trusting God for? Other than Heaven, and possibly your health, what are you consciously depending on God to do?
  • This world is filled with people who stopped one question short of finding an avenue that would allow them to pursue their vision. Don’t let the discouragement of a few slammed doors cause you to walk away from the vision God has birthed in your heart. Investigate. Look around. Think outside the lines. Few destinations have only one point of access. The same is true of your vision. If your initial approach is blocked, look for alternatives. Don’t give up too quickly. You may be one question away from discovering the key that will unlock the door that stands between you and God’s vision for your life. God will use this period of investigation to confirm, sharpen, and, sometimes, redirect your vision.
  • When a man or woman is willing to give up something valuable for a God-ordained vision, God looks upon it as worship.
  • Our natural response to criticism is to defend ourselves. This is especially true when our vision is under attack. We are tempted to begin a dialogue with our critics or with those who are parroting their criticism. Consequently, we waste energy and thought trying to answer questions for people who are often not really interested in answers. Without realizing it, our focus begins to shift. Instead of being vision centered, we slowly become critic centered.
  • You have a destiny to fulfill. God has placed before you opportunities and responsibilities that are brimming with divine significance. He has given you gifts, talents, and relationships that are waiting to be exploited on behalf of His kingdom.
  • If you’ve got a big dream to pursue, Visioneering by Andy Stanley could be a big help. You can read my full book review by clicking here. Below are 11 quotes from this book which especially caught my eye.
  • As Christians, we do not have a right to take our talents, abilities, experiences, opportunities, and education and run off in any direction we please. We lost that right at Calvary. …At the same time, we have no right to live visionless lives either. If God—think about it—if God has a vision for what you are to do with your allotment of years, you had better get in on it. What a tragedy to miss it. Missing out on God’s plan for our lives must be the greatest tragedy this side of eternity.
  • What could be and should be can’t be until God is ready for it to be.”
  • Everybody has a mental picture of what could be and should be for his life. But not everybody will pay the price to turn that mental image into reality.
  • Pay the price. Embrace the vision. After all, everybody ends up somewhere in life. Some people end up somewhere on purpose. Those are the ones with vision. You have the opportunity to end up somewhere on purpose.

Stanley’s aim is “Helping Leaders Go Further Faster”. Check out his website at

I had previously read Stanley’s book Making Vision Stick. Here’s a review of that small book

When Work and Family Collide


When Work & Family Collide: Keeping Your Job from Cheating Your Family by Andy Stanley (see BOOK REVIEWS)



Next Generation Leader

Next Generation Leader: Five Essentials for Those Who Will Shape the Future by Andy Stanley. Multnomah Books. 176 pages. 2006. Audio book read by Lloyd James.

Andy Stanley is one of my favorite leadership authors and speakers, primarily through his excellent Andy Stanley Leadership podcast and some of his books. His website also contains some other helpful leadership resources –

In this short book, Stanley shows how to:

• Discover and play to your strengths (which he often refers to as core competencies)

• Harness your fears

• Leverage uncertainty

• Enlist a leadership coach

• Maintain moral authority

 Stanley writes that there are five characteristics of a good leader. They are competence, courage, clarity, coaching and character.

Competence- Leaders must channel their energies toward those areas of leadership in which they are most likely to excel. Stanley writes that we all have a niche. There are some things we will be more gifted and competent doing than others. A good leader finds what they are most called and gifted to do and does those things, spending less time on areas that they are less gifted in, hopefully finding someone else to do that work.

Courage – The leader of an organization isn’t always the smartest or most creative person on the team. They aren’t necessarily the first to identify an opportunity. The leader is the one who has the courage to initiate, to set things in motion, to move ahead. Stanley states that courage is necessary for the leader because often they are the ones out in front. They are the ones seeing what is not there and trying to make it happen.

Clarity- Uncertain times require clear directives from those in leadership. Yet the temptation for new leaders is to allow uncertainty to leave them paralyzed. A next generation leader must learn to be clear even when they are not certain. Stanley states that uncertainty is normal for the leader. However, the leader is called to”bring clarity into the midst of the uncertainty”.

Coaching- You may be good. You may even be better than everyone else, but without a coach or mentor you will never be as good as you could be. Stanley encourages leaders to have coaching in their life. He points out how most leaders respond to this area: “There is something in many of us that resists being coached in the realm of leadership. We are willing to spend outrageous amounts of time and money perfecting our putts, serves, and swings. But when it comes to our leadership, we resist input. Maybe it’s the way leaders are wired. Maybe it’s pride. I don’t know. But on more than one occasion I have interfaced with young leaders who had great potential but who were unteachable”.

Character – The last section of the book covers the subject of character. Even though having character does not establish leaders, it distinguishes the ones worth following. An easy way to describe character is by asking the question, “Who am I when no one’s looking?” When no one’s looking, do we compromise a minor decision for the sake of a rewarding opportunity?

Years ago, a supervisor and I used to ask candidates in job interviews to define character. The answer we were looking for was one that we had heard politician J.C. Watts use, which was “Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking”. We rarely ever got anything close to this in the responses.

Stanley writes that many who are great leaders are not individuals of character. Character does not provide the platform for leadership, but it does make the person worthy to follow. He writes: “To become a leader worth following, you must be intentional about developing the inner man. You must invest in the health of your soul. Nobody plans to fail, especially leaders. But to ignore the condition of your soul is the equivalent of planning to fail”

Here are a few quotes from Stanley on character:

  • Character is not essential to leadership… But character is what makes you a leader worth following.
  • Character is the will to do what’s right even when it’s hard.
  • As you will discover, if you haven’t already, the shortest distance between where you are and where you want to be is not the most honorable one.
  • Pre-deciding to do what’s right will cost you. It will cost you time, money, and opportunity. It may negatively impact your reputation, at least for the short term. It may actually be an obstacle on your career path.
  • What small thing in my life right now has the potential to grow into a big thing? And who knows about it other than me?

Here are some other quotes from the book:

  • Only do what only you can do.
  • Successful leaders tend to assume that their core competencies are broader than they actually are. (Again, Stanley refers to core competencies like Marcus Buckingham refers to strengths)
  • Uncertainty is not an indication of poor leadership; it underscores the need for leadership. It is the environment in which good leadership is most easily identified. The nature of leadership demands that there will always be an element of uncertainty. Where there is no uncertainty, there is no longer the need for leadership. The greater the uncertainty, the greater the need for leadership. As Jim Kouzes puts it, “Uncertainty creates the necessary condition for leadership.”

Throughout the book Stanley quotes other leaders, including John Maxwell, Stephen Covey and Jim Collins.

Stanley sums up the five characteristics: “You must discover and play to your strengths and delegate your weaknesses. You’ve got to be courageous, and you’ve got to be clear in the midst of uncertainty. You need to find a leadership coach. And along the way it is absolutely essential that you maintain your character.”

At the end of each section of the book Stanley includes helpful section summaries and a Next Generation challenge.

Stanley is the senior pastor of North Point Community Church in the Atlanta area, averaging over 24,000 people in attendance over their five campuses, making it the second largest church in the U.S. Throughout the book he uses illustrations from the Bible to supplement his points.



The Principle of the Path: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Andy Stanley. Thomas Nelson. 176 pages. 2009. Audiobook read by Jon Gauger
*** ½

This very practical book by Andy Stanley could make some uncomfortable. Using the metaphor of a path, he looks at what gets in our way as we try to reach our goals, whether they are financial, emotional, spiritual, or work-related. He provides the reader both encouragement and “in your face” challenges to get us to “pay attention” and avoid making unwise decisions. He effectively uses probing questions, personal and biblical stories (David, Solomon and Absalom), and wisdom from Proverbs to show the reader that where you will end up is directly influenced by the direction you are moving now.

He states that your current direction in life will determine your destination. He writes that direction, not intention, determines your destination. This is what he refers to as “the principle of the path.” He writes that the principle of the path governs the way that our lives progress, whether we’re aware of it or not. Our paths that will take us in the direction of the path, whether or not we wanted to go in that direction.

Stanley writes that it is easy to identify when someone else seems to be on the wrong path, but not so easy to see in our own lives. It’s easier to see the paths that we took in hindsight, but we need to take special care to see where our paths are pointing us right now. He states that the principle of the path is unyielding and unforgiving. You will reach the destination of the path you are on. It is in your best interest to acknowledge and examine the direction you are headed.
He explains that even the small decisions we take have the power to change the course of our lives. As a result, it is important to be careful in every decision we make. We do not reach a position where we do not want to be suddenly or accidentally. We reach the point only after a series of actions we take. He encourages us to reach out to wise individuals that we respect to get their input before making major life decisions.
He discusses the “herd assumption”. He writes that we often look for reassurance and validation from others who have no more experience or wisdom than we do. We assume that since everybody we know is doing something the same way, it must be all right. This logic is then used to justify excessive debt, promiscuity, workaholism, and other such behaviors.
Stanley writes that his hope is that by becoming aware of this powerful principle, his readers will have the wisdom to know which path to choose and the courage to stay the course.

Below are some helpful quotes from the book:

• Recognizing the distinction between a solution and a path is the first step in understanding the principle of the path.
• To get from where we don’t want to be to where we do want to be requires two things: time and a change of direction.
• Intentions are of little consequence. Direction is everything.
• When the inevitable becomes the unavoidable, it is not unusual for us to start pointing our fingers at God.
• Forgiveness and consequences are two different things. One does not override the other.
• When happiness points in one direction while wisdom, truth, integrity, and common sense point in another, that’s when really smart people start doing really stupid things.
• The challenging aspect about picking the right paths is that the choices are now. The outcomes are later.
• One never accomplishes the will of God by breaking the law of God, violating the principles of God, or ignoring the wisdom of God.
• If you are willing to ask for directions when you can’t find a movie theater, why would you hesitate to ask for input when you are making a big relationship or financial decision?
• Pride is hard to see in the bathroom mirror. But it is awfully easy to see in the rearview mirror.
• When it dawns on you that your dreams can’t come true, the best response is to lean hard into your heavenly Father – even when it appears that he is responsible for your disappointment.
• Choosing the right path begins with submission, not information (or even direction)
• We should break the habit of drawing a circle around individual decisions and events and dismissing them as isolated occurrences. These are steps. Steps that lead somewhere.
• Prudent people look as far down the road as possible when making decisions. Christians start talking about forgiveness as if somehow forgiveness serves as an escape hatch from the outcome of bad decisions.
• When happiness points in one direction while wisdom, truth, integrity, and common sense point in another, that’s when really smart people start doing really stupid things.
• Your heart can’t be trusted… The truth is, if you let it, your heart will direct you down a path that leads to the very spot you most want to avoid.
• The choices are now. The outcomes are later. The decisions you make today have ramifications down the road.
• One never accomplishes the will of God by breaking the law of God, violating the principles of God, or ignoring the wisdom of God.
• I am constantly amazed at how resistant folks are to take their cues from people who are where they want to be.
• We don’t drift in good directions. We discipline and prioritize ourselves there.
• You don’t have problems to fix; you have directions that need to change.
• Choosing the right path begins with submission, not information.
• One never accomplishes the will by breaking the law of God, violating the principles of God, or ignoring the wisdom of God.
• Asking doesn’t mean you lack wisdom – its evidence of wisdom.

We don’t drift in good directions. We discipline and prioritize ourselves there.

making vision stickMaking Vision Stick by Andy Stanley. Zondervan. 80 pages. 2007. Audiobook read by Bill Dewees.
*** ½

This small book on vision is one that I have wanted to read for some time. Stanley is pastor of North Point Community Church in Atlanta, the second largest church in the United States. I have listened to his “Leadership Podcast” for the past few years.

He writes that this is not a book for those whose organizations have not developed their vision yet, but rather for those leaders who want to make their vision stick. He has described vision as a mental picture of what could be, fueled by a passion that it should be. He writes that one of the greatest challenges of leadership is making vision stick.

Stanley writes that it is the leader’s responsibility to ensure that those within their organization understand and embrace the vision of the organization. However, when a leader blames their followers for not following, the leader has ceased to lead. The leader has to communicate things in a consistent and coherent manner.

He gives five steps to make your vision stick:

Step 1 – State it Simply
Stanley writes that people don’t remember or embrace paragraphs, so the vision must be simple and memorable. He uses the One Campaign as an example. Their vision is “To make poverty history”. He indicates that if the vision is unclear to you, it will never be clear to the people in your organization. For your vision to stick, you may need to clarify or simplify it. The vision that Stanley has for his church is “To create a church that unchurched people love to attend”.

Step 2 – Cast it Convincingly
He uses Nehemiah 2 from the Bible to illustrate this step, stating that it is the ultimate illustration of casting vision. The wall had been torn down for a long time. Nehemiah casts the vision for why they need to rebuild the wall now. The three parts to this step are:
1. Define the problem. People have to realize how serious it is and what is at stake if they don’t get on board.
2. Offer a solution. A vision is convincing when people are able to see the connection between the problem and how the organization is offering a solution. Every vision is a solution to a problem. Stanley writes that:
“Buy-in hinges on your ability to convince them you are offering a solution to a problem that they are convinced needs to be solved”.
3. Present a reason. This is the reason that action must take place now. This is the answer to the questions “Why must we do this?” and “Why must we do this now?”
If the people in your organization don’t feel the problem, they will not be excited about the solution. You need to craft your vision as a solution to a problem. Organizations need to position themselves as a solution to a problem.
Step 3 – Repeat it Regularly
Stanley writes that regardless of how often you think you’ve repeated your vision, it’s not enough. He recommends discovering within the rhythm of your organization when the best time is to cast and repeat vision. At Stanley’s church the best times are each January (when they have their highest attendance) and May (when they are recruiting volunteers for the fall). The repetition is done in numerous ways (sermons, emails, recorded messages on CD, mail outs, etc.).
Step 4 – Celebrate it Systematically
Stanley writes that the leader has to find ways to celebrate the vision. When you catch somebody living out the vision the way you need to celebrate it. Stories do more to clarify than anything. They bring emotion to phrases and sentences in the vision statement. He goes on to state:
“Celebration clarifies the win. People will repeat what is most often celebrated. Every organization celebrates something. But if your vision doesn’t align with your celebrations, I assure you that what’s celebrated will overpower the vision and determine the course of your organization”.
Additionally he suggests that the first question that should be asked in the weekly staff meeting is “Where have you seen (vision statement) lived out this week?”
Step 5 – Embrace it Personally
Stanley states that:
“Your willingness to embody the vision of your organization will have a direct impact on your credibility as a leader. Living out the vision establishes credibility and makes you a leader worth following. When people are convinced the vision has stuck with you, it is easier for them to make the effort to stick with the vision”.
Stanley concludes the book by discussing how to know if your vision is slipping. He gives two categories of vision slippage indicators (ways to know when your vision is slipping):
1. Projects, Products and Programs
Stanley writes that leaders must keep their antenna up for new things that have potential to distract from the main thing. He states:
“Our approach stands in stark contrast to a practice many church leaders have adopted. I’ve actually heard this taught as a good approach to pastoral leadership. It goes something like this: When somebody comes to you with a ministry idea, tell them, ‘That’s a great idea! Why don’t you lead it?’ This is heralded as an effective way to involve people in ministry. I think it’s a great way for a church to lose focus. Vision, not people’s random ideas, should determine programming. Vision, not a cool PowerPoint presentation, should determine which initiatives are funded by your organization. Vision, not the promise of great returns, should determine which products are launched.”
2. Requests, Complaints and Stories
Stanley indicates that requests, complaints and stories reveal a great deal about what’s on the minds and hearts of the people in an organization. He writes:
“Consider this: if there was 100 percent buy-in to your vision by the people you work with, what questions would they ask? What kinds of stories would they feel compelled to tell? What would get on their nerves? Begin to listen. Really listen. If the people around you aren’t asking the right questions, telling the right stories, or complaining about the right things, your vision may be slipping.”
He goes on to state that what people complain about communicates their understanding of the vision.
This short book contains much helpful information about how to make vision stick.

2 thoughts on “Books by Andy Stanley

  1. Pingback: 25 Quotes from Making Vision Stick by Andy Stanley | Coram Deo ~

  2. Pingback: 10 BOOKS LEADERS SHOULD READ | Coram Deo ~

Leave a Reply