When an old church suffers from declining attendances, financial troubles, inward focus, ageing membership, power struggles and rapid pastor turnover, it is hard to imagine an escape from the death spiral. However, new life is possible as illustrated by the remarkable story of First Calvary Baptist Church, told by Mark DeVine and Darrin Patrick in their book Replant: How a Dying Church Can Grow Again.

The book describes the story of First Calvary Baptist Church of Kansas City from the time Mark DeVine was invited to become the interim pastor there in late 2001 until the time the church merged with The Journey of St Louis and relaunched as Redeemer Fellowship in 2008. By 2001 the church was a faded reflection of its former glory, with a history of decades of declining attendance, struggling to pay its bills, inwardly focused, and tightly controlled by a small clique of lay leaders. After painfully working through many of the issues which were holding the church back, DeVine looked around for a larger healthier church with which First Calvary could merge, eventually settling on The Journey.

This is a helpful and inspiring book. Many leaders of smaller churches will be only too familiar with the power struggles, financial difficulties and other problems described by the authors. As the book shows, a church is not condemned to solving all of its own problems using only its own resources. Sometimes the best solution is to find a larger well-run church which shares the same gospel mission, and completely surrender all resources and control to the larger church.

Focusing is important, but sometimes noticing is better, at least when you are making critical decisions, according to Max Bazerman in his book The Power of Noticing: What the Best Leaders See. If you are naturally inclined to focus on what you are doing, then periodically you should take a break, remove your blinders, and notice all the valuable information around you.

My full review of the book is available at my business book reviews website.

Books about successful technology companies are usually written by the entrepreneurs who founded the companies. It is truly remarkable for a book about a company which has grown from nothing to one of the largest computer companies in the world, written by an employee with a HR background and another employee with a diversity background. However, that is what we find with The Lenovo Way: Managing a Diverse Global Company for Optimal Performance, by Gina Qiao and Yolanda Conyers, suggesting that the key features of the company are at least as much tied up in its attitude towards employees and diversity as they are in the actual products the company sells.

My full review of the book is available at my business book reviews website.

Your business will be humming along when a tremor suddenly hits. In fact – and this flies in the face of instinct – when trouble looms, usually in the form of pressure for short-term growth, that’s exactly the moment to make bold bets, according to Sanjay Khosla and Mohanbir Sawhney in their book Fewer, Bigger, Bolder: From Mindless Expansion to Focused Growth. Getting to the point of quality growth is the endgame, and to do this you have to identify a very small number of high-potential areas to invest in.

My full review of the book is available at my business book reviews website.

Entrepreneurs and family businesspeople who enjoy long-term business success all follow a common procedure: they continually reinvent themselves, their businesses and, when relevant, their families, according to Lloyd Shefsky in his book Invent Reinvent Thrive: The Keys to Success for Any Start-Up, Entrepreneur or Family Business. While this sounds challenging, it is quite achievable because successful reinvention normally occurs one small step at a time.

My full review of the book is available at my business book reviews website.

You need to know that having questions and doubts doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad Christian, and God is certainly not disappointed with you, according to Jonathan Morrow in his book Questioning the Bible: 11 Major Challenges to the Bible’s Authority. But you also don’t want to let those doubts just sit there, because when doubts go unaddressed they inevitably steal the vitality of our faith.

The book addresses a number of important questions, including:

  • What can we really know about Jesus?
  • How do we know what the earliest Christians believed?
  • Has the Biblical text been corrupted over the centuries?
  • Is the Bible unscientific?
  • Is the Bible sexist, racist, homophobic and genocidal?

In my opinion, most of the questions are answered quite well, in a persuasive and even-handed manner. On the other hand, I think that the author’s arguments on slavery are weak, his first point being that “Christianity did not invent slavery”. In fact, the Bible is from end-to-end an anti-slavery manifesto, with the Old Testament describing the escape from slavery in Egypt and the New Testament describing the escape from slavery to sin.

Similarly the author’s argument that the Old Testament slaughter of Canaanites was about idolatry rather than ethnic cleansing does not, in my view, properly address the question. A Christian understanding of the Old Testament requires that it be interpreted in the light of the New Testament, and Jesus’s commands to love our enemies, to do good to those who persecute us, and not to resist an evil person but to turn the other cheek. A proper interpretation of Old Testament passages apparently condoning violence needs to involve a discussion of Jesus’s position on violence.

Notwithstanding these issues, most Christians will find in this book some very helpful answers to some difficult questions.

There are several common problems with business presentations, including failure to relate the message to the lives of the audience, failure to prepare adequately, and trying to cover too much information in too little time, according to Luis Cubero in his book Business Storytelling Guide: Creating Impactful and Compelling Business Presentations Using Storytelling Techniques. Each of these problems can be addressed by taking a storytelling approach to the presentation.

My full review of the book is available at my business book reviews website.

Organizations must learn how to drive innovation from both the technology side and the customer side. The challenge for companies is how to get better at bringing those two sides together, according to Marion Debruyne in her book Customer Innovation: Customer-Centric Strategy for Enduring Growth. The essence of customer innovation is that the organization and its ecosystem are a united force in addressing a market demand.

My full review of the book is available at my business book reviews website.

Intel’s greatest strength has been its willingness to take huge risks, even betting the company, according to Michael Malone in his book The Intel Trinity: How Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore and Andy Grove Built the World’s Most Important Company. On the occasions when those bets have failed, the company has clawed its way back into the game through superhuman effort and will,… and then immediately gone on to take yet more risks.

My full review of the book is available at my business book reviews website.

You can listen to strategic advice for leading virtual teams such as “build a culture of trust” or “encourage social interactions among your team” all day long; but if you don’t get specific tactical steps that you can implement straight away, those strategies won’t be of much help, according to Hassan Osman in his book Influencing Virtual Teams: 17 Tactics That Get Things Done with Your Remote Employees. Hence the author provides a range of tactics, rather than strategies.

My full review of the book is available at my business book reviews website.