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Courageous Leadership

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The book you hold resonates with this that leaders such as you have the potential to be the most influential forces on planet Earth. Yours is the staggering responsibility and the matchless privilege of rallying believers and mobilizing their spiritual gifts in order to help people who are far from God become fully devoted followers of Christ. Life transformation and the eternal destinies of real people depend on the redemptive message entrusted to the local church. Are you willing to do whatever it takes to lead your church effectively so God's message of hope can change the world? Then this book is for you. Courageous Leadership is Bill Hybels' magnum opus, a book far too important to be written before its time. Only now, after nearly thirty years leading his own church from a handful of people with a burning vision into a globe-spanning kingdom force---only after almost three decades of victories and setbacks, of praying hard and risking big---is Hybels ready at last to share the lessons he has learned, and continues to learn, about Christian leadership. Too much is at stake for you not to maximize your spiritual gift of leadership, insists Hybels. In this passionate, powerful book, he unpacks the tools, tasks, and challenges of your calling. You'll discover the power of vision and how to turn it into action. You'll gain frontline insights for developing a kingdom dream team, discovering your leadership style, developing other leaders, making decisions, walking with God, embracing change, staying your God-given course, and much, much more. Drawing on his own richly varied life experiences, Hybels fleshes out vital principles with riveting firsthand stories. This is far more than another book on leadership strategies and techniques. You'll find those topics in here, to be sure. But beyond them, you'll find the very essence of one of today's foremost Christian leaders---his fervent commitment to evangelism and discipleship and his zeal to inspire fellow church leaders even as he seeks to keep growing as a leader himself. If unchurched people matter to you . . . if you love seeing believers serve passionately with their spiritual gifts . . . if God's heartbeat for the church is your heartbeat as well . . . then this book is a must. Courageous Leadership will convince you to lead with all your might, all your skill, and all your faith. And it will give you the tools to do just that.

256 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2002

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About the author

Bill Hybels

371 books202 followers
Bill Hybels is the founding and senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, a non-denominational church with eight regional locations in the Chicago area. He is the bestselling author of more than twenty books, including Simplify, Axiom, Holy Discontent, Just Walk Across the Room, The Volunteer Revolution, Courageous Leadership, Too Busy Not to Pray, and Becoming a Contagious Christian.

Hybels launched Willow Creek Community Church in 1975 with his wife, Lynne (Berry), and a group of friends who gathered in rented space in a movie theater with a vision of helping people from any faith background (or no faith at all) become fully devoted followers of Jesus. Utilizing contemporary music, the arts, relevant teaching from the Bible, and a small-groups community focus that has revolutionized how people experience community in the local church, Willow Creek has grown to more than 25,000 attendees, one of the largest churches in North America—and one of the most influential.

In 1992, Hybels launched Willow Creek Association, a not-for-profit organization that equips, inspires, and empowers leaders around the world. In 1995, he convened WCA’s first Global Leadership Summit, an annual two-day event featuring top leaders from all perspectives and areas of expertise—both faith-based and secular (past speakers include Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Bono, Melinda Gates, Andy Stanley, Jim Collins, Ed Catmull, Tyler Perry, Sheryl Sandberg, Nicholas Kristof, David Gergen, and Brené Brown). Telecast live from Willow Creek’s 7,000-seat South Barrington auditorium each August, more than 400,000 pastors and community leaders attend the Summit at hundreds of locations across North America, and around the world at 675+ sites in 130 countries and 60 different languages—making it the largest event of its kind on the planet. “Everyone wins when a leader gets better,” Hybels says.

Hybels holds a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies and an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Trinity College (now Trinity International University) in Deerfield, Illinois. He and his wife, Lynne, have two grown children and two grandsons.

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5 stars
1,476 (41%)
4 stars
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3 stars
663 (18%)
2 stars
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46 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 138 reviews
Profile Image for Ryan Reeves.
20 reviews46 followers
April 1, 2012
I am judging this book based on what it bills itself as: a book on leadership. On that basis, the book does not deliver.

The biggest drawback to this book is that Hybels dwells too much on his own success, his own unique ministry, and his own style of leadership. Little of this can be applied universally. I also soon realized that Hybels has a penchant for dwelling overly-long on illustrations that no normal leader can connect with (examples include: whisking his inner core of leaders off on week-long a Carribean vacation, having a Harvard and Standford MBA on his executive staff, struggling to unite his hundreds of staff under a single vision for the church.) At one point he chaffs over churches that remain relatively small and don't grow to dominate their communities. This causes him to short-circuit any potential advice he might have given to the thousands of leaders and pastors who have a call to a modest flock. As a leadership book, then, this book is (unintentionally?) aimed at the highest echelon of leaders.

If there is a strength to the book it's Hybels ability to inspire the reader by his own personal charisma. From what I've seen, this is quite typical for Hybels: there is just something about the guy. He's not a sage or a firebrand; but the charisma he gives off is unimaginably attractive--it's fitting for the guy who encourages us to be "Contagious Christians".

My suggestion for readers is to approach this book as a leadership memoir. If the book had been billed as a memoir I would have been quite impressed and would have ended up with a 4 or 5 star rating. It is impressive to watch Hybels ministry grow from the destitution of his early ministry to the impressively influential church that Willow Creek has become. I was inspired to continue on in the tough times of my career by watching how God led Hybels through twists and turns.

But for now I'll judge the book by its cover and give it a lower rating as a leadership book.
3 reviews3 followers
June 24, 2009
Again: love love love. This book is great because it's flat-out about Christian leadership. John C Maxwell is fantastic, but you have to apply his principles in a biblical way. Hybels spells it out for you. This book seriously challenged me to nurture my gift of leadership.
6 reviews4 followers
April 6, 2009
This book was really helpful in understanding how fundamentally important it is to achieve balance; and explained a lot of great things about leadership.
Profile Image for Matthew.
312 reviews16 followers
October 1, 2015
One of my absolute favorite leadership books ever. Some of my favorite takeaways are...

"This is not a book on leadership theories, but rather on proven leadership practice."

"Whatever the capacity for human suffering, the church has a greater capacity for healing and wholeness."

"What flourishing churches have in common is that they are led by people who possess and deploy the spiritual gift of leadership."

"Leaders see the big picture and understand how to help others find their place of service within that picture."

"The local church is the hope of the world and its future rests primarily in the hands of its leaders."

"Leaders should never apologize for the strength of feeling that accompanies their God-given visions. God designed leaders to experience their longing, their desire, and their drive deeply, and to express it fully. And when they do, they energize others."

"Visions are priceless. They are holy entrustments from God that must be taken seriously. To squander a vision is an unthinkable sin."

"Nothing neutralizes the redemptive potential of a church faster than trying to be all thing to all people. It is impossible for any one church to do it all."

"The kind of people you are looking for are probably making huge contributions and setting records somewhere. They are probably deliriously happy and much loved by the people they work with. Go after that type. Go after proven competence."

"People don't give to organizations or to other people. They give to visions."

"Leadership development never happens accidentally."

"It takes a leader to develop a leader"

"The Holy Spirit is, by far, the most valuable data source we have. Leadership training and mentoring are good. Honing our skills is admirable. Seeking wise counsel is beneficial. Developing our minds is essential. But ultimately we walk by faith, not by sight. There is a supernatural dimension to leadership that only comes our way when we listen carefully to the Spirit"

"Establishing a sustainable pace for you life is nobody's job but yours. So do it. Your life, your ministry, your marriage, your family they all depend on it."

Profile Image for Jason.
112 reviews2 followers
October 29, 2010
I could spend quite some time if I wrote out all the things about this book that are worth reviewing. It really just needs to be read.
If you are a church elder, pastor, lay leader, etc - read it
If you are a leader in the business world - read it
If you are a leader of a family - read it.

While Bill is targeting church leaders and much of it focuses in that realm, so many of us that have leadership potential allow it to flounder...to dissipate because we don't recognize it, don't build it up and don't use it. The passion in this book and the useful points will be items that I will be working on and wrestling with for a very long time.

I imagine that anyone else in a position of leadership or wanting ultimately to be in a position of leadership would benefit from many of the chapters.

Get it. Read it. Work on it.
Profile Image for Shaun Lee.
191 reviews3 followers
July 4, 2018
I read the book without knowing the identity of this certain Bill Hybels. If I knew who he was, I would most probably not have even picked up the book and would have missed the opportunity to get a glimpse of the inner workings of this man of God (because of my negative perception of Willow Creek and the visitor-friendly church model).

Courageous Leadership is one of top two leadership books I would recommend (the other being McIntosh & Rima's Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1...). Pairing up Courageous leadership with his other book titled Leadership Axioms (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1...) would be a great gift for the beloved leader or pastor in your life.

This labour of love is the fruit of after he concluded that his "thirty-year graduate class on leadership - fleshed out in the real-life laboratory of a local church - had finally prepared [him] to write about the strategic importance of the spiritual gift of leadership" (p12). Hybels asks of us this profound call to action: "will the men and women who have been entrusted with leadership gifts take their gifts seriously, develop them fully, and deploy them courageously, so that the willing and gifted believers in their churches can work together to make a difference in the world?" (p27).

I recall an exchange I had with two of my seminary classmates yesterday (9 Oct 2015). The topic was on whether we preferred to pastor a small (about 200 people strong) or a larger (about 2000 people strong) church. One of them joked that I would lead a megamega church of two million (to put that in perspective, here in Singapore we have 5.5million people). I searched my heart for a reply, and this is what I come up with, "I think I'm a better teacher than I am a pastor. I truly do not know how, because I have never had a good pastor until about three years ago. I needed somebody to teach and model for me how to be one, or else I would never know." The reason I share the exchange is because I thoroughly believe that we need good leaders and good pastors otherwise the younger generation simply will regard the term good pastor-leader as an oxymoron.

It could be argued that the Crazy Busy (cf. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1...) Western believer and the Church he attends may tend toward being more inward than outward looking; the church exists for itself and efforts to bring forth the gospel of Jesus Christ may not be the primary personal responsibility of every member. To this problem, we have one-trick response - events and events and more events.

Here's a series of excepts from the books that I thoroughly enjoyed or resonated with

Hybels pleads with leaders (p27-28):

"Romans 12:8 tells those of us who have the gift of leadership that we had better sit up and take notice, we better 'lead with diligence.' Why? Because the church, the bride of Christ, upon which the eternal destiny of the world depends, will flourish or falter on the basis of how we lead. If you're a leader, please reread that sentence and let it sink into your consciousness. Also, please understand that I am not writing about leadership simply to highlight this particular gift. My ultimate concern is not leadership. For me, the bottom line is the Acts 2 church. But I am absolutely convinced that the church will never reach her full redemptive potential until men and women with the leadership gift step up and lead.

People supernaturally gifted to lead must yield themselves fully to God. They must cast powerful biblical, God-honoring visions. They must build effective, loving, and clearly focused teams. They must fire up Christ followers to give their absolute best for God. And they must insist with put bull determination that

the gospel be preached,
the lost be found,
the believers be equipped,
the poor be served,
the lonely be enfolded into community,
and God gets the credit for it all.

In chapter two, Hybels suggests that the leader's most potent weapon is VISION (p31):

"Proverbs 29:18 says, 'where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained.' They cant focus, cant reach their goal, cant follow their dream. An older translation says, 'without vision, the people perish.' I've seen it with my own eyes-without vision, people lose the vitality that makes them feel alive.

I'm not saying that the only thing churches need is visionary leadership. When a local church is discouraged or demoralized, it turns to its shepherds, its artists, and its mercy-gifted folks for a fresh wave of encouragement. When the church needs organization and order, it turns to gifted administrators and says, 'do something about this chaos.' When it needs edification it turns to people with the gift of teaching.

But when a church needs a God-honouring, kingdom-advance, heart-thumping vision, it turns to its leaders. That's because God put in the leader's arsenal the potent offensive weapon called vision."

He defines vision as a picture of the future that produces passion (p32), that sounds something like "I think I could give my life to this. I think maybe I was born for this!" (p33) or "Nothing else does this to me. Clearly I was born for this" (p35). To leaders who is hesitant or unclear about his or her vision he asks a series of helpful questions (see p38) because "receiving a vision is both a deeply spiritual thing and a deeply practical thing. It involves the quiet, internal work of making your heart ready, and also the energetic, external work of exploring and experimenting. Leaders must devote themselves to both efforts, trusting that their spiritual discipline and their hard work will be rewarded with a vision that will impassion them and inspire others" (p38). Vision is communicated: By embodying it (p38-40), one-on-one (p40-41) and by going public with it (p41-42).

The Singapore church often tries to copy the early Singapore government's model of informing the people about the vision and then telling them to come on board because "thus saith the Lord". The only problem is that Singapore of 2015 is not the Singapore of 1965. Hybels suggests a different method, one that would probably resonate better with the more "westernised" millennial second-generation Christians (p42):

Let me suggest a way to bolster a leader's courage and also build consensus before taking a vision public. First, the leader brings together whoever makes up the senior leadership team of the church: key staff members, lay leaders, elders, deacons, and so on. then he or she says to this group, "our people deserve clarity on the vision God has given us. They need to know what we're about and where we're headed. So let's meet for the next eight Saturday morning and figure out together, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, where God wants us to lead this church.

We'll start by studying Acts 2 and asking God to give us the pictures, ideas, and words that capture his vision for this church. Then when we present it publicly we will be of one heart and one mind, and hopefully, the rest of the congregation will buy in. If some people don't resonate with the vision, we can talk to them one-on-one and give them time to process the potential changes. If after that they decide not to join us, we wil trust that there are other churches where they will feel more at home. but let's come to leadership consensus so we can present the clearest, strongest vision possible."
Profile Image for Jocelyn.
648 reviews
January 4, 2015
This book reads like a sermon: everything repeated about three or four times using different vocabulary; illustrations; Bible verses; meaningless adjectives like "wonderful" and "incredible" and "phenomenal"; unfortunate sentences like "Without vision, people lose the vitality that makes them feel alive." None of this is surprising, I guess, since Bill Hybels is a very successful motivational speaker.

He is also a proven leader, so that alone makes the book worth wading through, or skimming through -- at least for any Christian who wants to learn about leadership. I especially liked his overview of leadership styles and qualifications. Although much of it is not exactly original, and he admits this, he provides helpful anecdotes about how these principles have worked out in his own organization. Also, he covers all the bases, which makes the book extremely practical.

I listened to the Zondervan recorded books version. The narrator reads it in this kind of preachy style. It was sort of fun to listen to him talk, as long as I could ignore the fact that the style made it sound a bit patronizing.
Profile Image for Audrey.
96 reviews1 follower
November 3, 2017
I read this book for a turnaround pastor coaching class. I have to say, the first half seemed like it was a lot of fluff, like the author was just trying to fill a page quota. It was not very engaging, and just really hard for me to get through. By the time I got to the second half though, there started to be a lot more practical application type material, which is what I'm looking for. Inspire me, move me, make me laugh, cry, or get angry - do something! So much of it was just words though.

But once I finally got through it, I'd say I felt like I learned a lot from Bill Hybels on leading a church. I won't probably apply all that he talked about because I am gifted differently and don't have the same views on how to go about ministry and church leadership, but many of his points could apply to anyone in any type of leadership - ministry or marketplace. I think the most compelling chapter he wrote, oddly, is the very last chapter, which was focused completely on the life of Mother Teresa. I would recommend this book to others in leadership - if they can get through the first few chapters, it's probably worth the time!
Profile Image for Michael.
224 reviews
April 4, 2018
Definitely one of the better leadership books I've read, Courageous Leadership resides at that intersection between spiritual leadership and the time-tested leadership lessons of the marketplace. Thankfully, it does a great job melding the two. The book was encouraging, challenging, and inspiring all at once, while also having strong practical sections, especially those dealing with a leader's self-knowledge.

Because it covers so many different aspects of leadership, it can at times feel more like a buffet than a seamlessly organized 3 course meal. But I don't mind, I like buffets.
Profile Image for Evan Hoekzema.
295 reviews2 followers
May 17, 2020
There was so much insight in this book. Hybel’s leadership experience is impressive. The different topics he covers and inspiring and practical. It’s hard not to get through a chapter without something profound popping up. That being said, I also found myself incredibly sad reading through this book. Hybels writes over and over again about integrity, avoiding moral failure, and finishing the race God calles him to run the right way. It was impossible not to read his book through his more current circumstances. Yet, despite his own failings, his words ring true.
184 reviews2 followers
March 21, 2021
Given the revelations of the last few years the taint of hypocrisy hangs over this book. The business-driven philosophy that resulted in a church organisation that brings in tens of millions of dollars (admittedly that flows out through its various ministries) is something that doesn't feel quite right. Don't get me wrong, the spiritual aspect isn't neglected, but is it used or applied correctly? Its difficult to judge. This is an intriguing read and one that can potentially still even be of help if used cautiously.
Profile Image for Danny Theurer.
224 reviews3 followers
December 22, 2019
Placing the recent stumbles associated with Hybels aside, this is actually an incredible book on leadership. Books in this realm are often too obsessed with soundbites and phrases that rhyme - and it's been to the detriment of the powerful truths that need to be contained within the covers. That's where this book stands out: It isn't a bunch of polished, marketable phrases. It's wisdom that an actual leader has led by.
Profile Image for Paul.
Author 3 books2 followers
April 17, 2021
Despite subsequent issues at Willowcreek (I've no idea); and despite some Americanisms that really grate on me; and despite the frequent irritating manner in which Bill Hybels refers flippantly to the Holy Spirit telling him stuff - there are actually some very helpful things here on leadership. I'm glad I read it, and it's useful. It's not deep or profound, but it's practical and we can all learn from it, especially church leaders. Yep, helpful.
Profile Image for Rilee Boyd.
8 reviews
June 9, 2022
3.5 rounded to a 4
Definitely had lots of good points for working in a church! Because this is a new start of my life some of the lessons did not apply to my life working in the church quiet yet but it was interesting to see Bill’s way of leadership to start Willow and continue it for many years. My favorite chapters were chapters 10 and 11 :) even if you don’t read the whole book definitely read those and take some notes!
January 22, 2018
Solid read

Great for leadership development for both pastors and their teams. Sometimes ministry materials from larger churches and large church leaders can be difficult to scale and to a small church setting, this was not the case for this book.
Profile Image for Alice Theobald.
36 reviews1 follower
August 25, 2018
Very informative

I don't ever see myself as a leader on the level this book addresses but it definitely gave me a greater appreciation on what it takes to run a mega church such as the one I attend. I am getting ready to colead a woman's small group so it was helpful
Profile Image for Daniel Miller.
20 reviews
October 31, 2019
Most comprehensive leadership book I’ve ever read. Weaves together spiritual and business practices in a way that’s doable and challenging. I’ll be returning to this for a number of subjects. Solid read!
Profile Image for Colin Adams.
14 reviews2 followers
May 9, 2017
Not bad, but think there is better stuff out there on leadership.
Profile Image for Ash Thorpe.
1 review1 follower
July 15, 2017
Very good read. Fantastic overview of the challenges facing leaders. Written for church leaders but would be applicable broader.
125 reviews7 followers
September 18, 2017
Great book. Has lots of how tos and lots of stories to inspire that you can lead well
827 reviews6 followers
September 22, 2017
Covers the bases nicely. Hybels has put a lot of effort into leadership over his ministry and this is his personal take
Profile Image for Eric Holman.
23 reviews2 followers
September 17, 2018
Harder to read this time around. Great content, but difficult to separate the current events from the leadership tips.
161 reviews2 followers
October 29, 2018
Lyfter upp betydelsen av ledarskapet i en församling och hur viktigt det är att den personen får möjlighet att på påverka. Ledarna behöver hjälp för att genomföra Guds vilja.
Profile Image for Philip.
116 reviews
January 14, 2019
A lot of truth but also felt extremely sad reading it. How can someone sharing so much passion about church be so deceived to ignore his own actions.
January 24, 2019
A classic, something for everyone, challenging, inspiring, encouraging. Wish I had read it years ago and I'll be returning to it again and again.
Profile Image for Ann Maria.
Author 1 book3 followers
April 16, 2020
Good book on leadership and the role of the church in bringing life change
Displaying 1 - 30 of 138 reviews

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