I have had the privilege of serving on the Leadership Network team with Eric Swanson now for close to ten years. He has been one of the leading voices in the Externally Focused Church movement. His latest book in our series with Jossey Bass is The Externally Focused Quest, co-authored with Rick Rusaw. Check out Eric's thoughts are reading and writing below.
Why is reading important to you, and how do you find or make time to read books and blogs?
Every leader needs to be a learner and reading is one of the best gateways into the best thinking, practices and literary talent of others. What’s worked well for me is downloading books from http://www.audible.com where I get two books each month for around $20 bucks. So in the past two years I’ve listened to around 40 books during the time I walk each morning, ranging from Atlas Shrugged to Bonhoffer—fiction, science, vampires, politicians…its all available. I also download books to Kindle to read on a space friendly format. I’m trying not to be a collector of books. When I get too many books I usually box them up and in the middle of the night put them on some random porch, or in the back of a pickup truck at airport parking with a note that says, “Tom: Here are the books I borrowed from you last year. Thanks again. P.S. I think this is your house or What a coincidence to see your truck here.”
What books are you currently reading that you would recommend to our readers?
I just finished listening to Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese—a compelling story of an Indian doctor in Ethiopia. Like any great story, its all about reconciliation with the father. On my Kindle I’m reading Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success by Kerry Patterson and my hardcover book I’m marking up is Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal. I hope to incorporate principles I’m learning in the latter two books to bring into my work at Leadership Network.
How do you make time to write books or blog?
I find that writers…by definition…write! That may sound like double talk but for writers; we don’t even know what we think until we write it down…so we write. The best advice I got on writing was from a friend who was taking a screen-writing class. He said, “Write every day.” So when I’m writing a book (I’ve co-authored four) or some other writing project, I try to write the first thing in the morning. You don’t want to lose momentum
What is the “big idea” of your latest book in a Leadership Network book series?
My latest book (that I co-authored w/ Rick Rusaw) is The Externally Focused Quest: Becoming the Best Church FOR the Community. Every church has access to the same resources—people, facilities, budget, time, prayer, technology, etc. We can use those resources to try to become the best church IN the community or the best church FOR the community. That little preposition makes all the difference.
If leaders only had time right now to read one chapter of your book, which one would your recommend… and why?
Each chapter has its own theme. For example, Chapter 2 is titled, Focus: They Choose the Window Seat not the Aisle Seat. Chapter 4 is Scope: They Think Kingdom not Church. But probably Chapter 3 would be a good one to delve into. The title of the chapter: Purpose: They Practice Weight Training, Not Body Building. It’s a great chapter that fully unpacks Ephesians 2:8-10; not just how God saves us but what he saves us for. It’s pretty compelling.