Sticky Teams by Larry Osborne: A Must Read for Church Leaders

Larry Osborne. Sticky Teams: Keeping Your Leadership Team and Staff on the Same Page. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010. 221 pp. Paperback. ISBN 9780310324545. $16.99.

A few months ago, I was sitting down with one of my pastor coaches, and he mentioned that I needed to read Sticky Teams by Larry Osborne. For the record, I know this book is a bit on the older side for a book review, but I was fighting in Afghanistan as a Marine Officer when this book was published. The book maybe older in date, but the contents within this book are still applicable and relevant for any church leader today. This book review will summarize the contents of the book, make a few generic comments, and offer my recommendation. 

Osborne’s stated purpose for writing this work reads, “When faced with differing agendas and clashing perspectives that every team must work through, sticky teams know how to deal with the issues at hand and still come out united in purpose and vision, with a genuine camaraderie undamaged by strong differences” (p. 19). In order to substantiate this thesis, Osborne divides his book into four parts with part one being the foundation for the other three. 

Osborne begins with his essential concept of unity as the foundation for his work. He defines unity with three components: 1) doctrinal unity, 2) respect and friendship, and 3) philosophical unity (p. 28). Without these factors, our teams will quickly become disgruntled and ineffective. I highly recommend that you take your time reading the first two chapters of this book because if you miss this foundation, you will be unable to effectively implement the other three parts. Therefore–and I think Osborne would agree with me–unity of a team seems to be the main theme for which the rest of this book builds upon in the other three parts. 

Parts two, three, and four are the pragmatics associated with his ideological concept of unity. To put it another way, unity as the main thrust of his argument can be accomplished, maintained, and protected when we identify our own church organizational charts (Part 1), our ability to align everyone on our team (Part 2), and clearly communicate to our teams and people (Part 3). These parts will help you put meat on the bones of his unity concept. 

Osborne’s book will hopefully encourage you and get you to think about how to create unity on your leadership team. The versatility of this book should be highly noted. It does not matter if you are elder lead, deacon run (although this might be problematic biblically), staff lead, or board led, the contents presented in this book will help you think through and build unity with your leaders. The versatility of this book is probably the reason I was recommended to read it by my pastoral coach nine years after it was published. 

Additionally, Osborne discusses some “hot topic” issues for church leadership. My staff and I have had some great discussions talking about the concepts presented by the author. How do you handle staff salaries? How do you prioritize the various aspects of ministry? How do you know what organizations to support and what organizations to pass on when they ask for donations? What information about church members should a church leader know and not know? Osborne will let you know his position on each question, but he will not push his agenda on his readers. He will present his position and let you and your leaders determine how you will proceed with the information he presents. 

To some who are overly pragmatic, this might be a disappointing reality about the contents presented. Some pastors and leaders just want a “how to” manual for building leaders and teams. This book will not deliver on those expectations (the book is not meant to do that, by the way). You or your leadership team will have to decide how you will adopt these concepts in your current church setting. So, while some may see this as disappointing, I find it highly satisfying as a young church leader. Of course, Osborne gives some principles to use in dealing with fierce church battles, aligning staff, and making changes, but the tone of his writing is more recommendation rather than forceful intrusion on your leadership context and style. To me, this reflection is another strength. 

Therefore, I highly recommend that you get your hands on this book in the near future. If you have read it in the past, pick it up and read it again. This book is like mining for gold. The work is hard, but in the end you will be glad you got the shiny golden nugget. Osborne’s Sticky Teams will be a work I come back to on a yearly basis.

Amazon has this book available for $14.75

If you have a book you would like me to review, feel free to send me a message through this website. If you are an author of a current book and want some further publicity, contact me through the website and we can discuss you sending me a copy of your book to review and share.

Jeremy Bell

Chan’s Letters to the Church Reviewed

Francis Chan. Letters to the Church. Colorado Springs: David C Cook, 2018. 219 pp. Paperback. ISBN 978-0830776580. $16.99.

Francis Chan shocked the evangelical world when he stepped away from Cornerstone, a megachurch platform, and moved with his family to Asia. The shock was that Chan stepped away willingly not because of some moral failure or internal scandal. He walked away from the church he planted in 1994 because of a stirring in his soul. Out of the wake of this life-changing move, Chan has written this book to “point out areas where the Church is lacking” (p. 211). When Chan talks about pointing out the flaws of the Church, he primarily focuses his work on the church in America.

Chan’s book was written with a tone of complete humility. He does not want to condemn the church in America because he loves the church (p. 22). However, he loves the Bride of Christ with such passion that he desires to help point out some of the ways the church might be displeasing God from the Scriptures. Chan desires for any of his writings to be checked by the Word of God (p. 24). In other words, the author desires to bring to light issues while maintaining a posture of humility. His humility becomes more prominent by his own admittance that he contributed to some of the issues he points out in his book (p. 44).

The author begins by providing a theology of the church from Scripture. His main emphasis is on the church as sacred. As sacred, the Bride of Christ requires that all members are to be “devoted” (p. 55). The motif of devotion really drives the rest of his understanding of the church as a place of worship, but also as a family. The family dynamic of the church seems to be Chan’s emphasis in his newer model. The family dynamic he proposes is one of both love, unity, and service.

Chan concludes his book with a note to pastors, a theology of suffering, an empowerment of children and youth, and his model for church out of his reflections. Chan concludes with his “afterword” on killing pride from a posture of complete humility. Throughout the book a reader can sense the pain and the love for the church and the people within the church as he speaks this exhortation.

I admire Chan’s humility in this work. I think the church should always been in a posture of reformation or change (p. 190). Chan seeks to change the consumer mindset that has intruded into the Bride of Christ in America. He does present some problems that he has observed, and he provides a solution through his own model of ministry for those problems. We must not be resistant to change as the church because we are always changing to become more like Christ and more like the Scripture we hold as both innerant and authoritative. Chan doesn’t propose a one-size fits all model for the church, but a way to think about how to be a more biblical church in America.

While this book does well in presenting some of the problems within the church, I want my readers to be aware of two concerns I have with the content. First, sometimes Chan’s writing can be more experiential rather than biblical. I don’t want to downplay his theology because I think his view of the church is correct. However, he does posit his arguments for the church through many of his experiences overseas. His experiences seem to indicate that the persecuted church is better off than the church in America because of our freedoms. He creates this “fear of missing out” in America with his experiences. The Bride of Christ-no matter where it is located-has problems that are in need of change. We all must be cautious of elevating experience with special revelation-even unintentionally. The Bible explains and helps us understand our experiences and feelings.

Second, Chan concludes with what his new model of ministry looks like in the present. I think we must be careful to heed Chan’s warning that this is the way he is working at doing church, but he would not claim this as the ONLY way to do church. My concern is that some reading may scrap the whole church in America to do their own church design like Chan. Chan can do this because I think he is strong theologically, but I fear that others might launch this same model with a minimal understanding of theological clarity or accuracy leading to heresy. Some may be able to reform in new ways, but others might have to think through solutions to Chan’s observations in other methods for established churches. My question is, “Can we reform without abandoning ship?” I think we can by God’s grace and the power of the Spirit.

Nevertheless, this book is worth you to read. I would recommend it to any believer who wants to think more biblically about the church and the issues that are plaguing the church in America. May we prayerfully search the Lord, his Word, and be guided by the Spirit to change the consumerist mindset within God’s bride. May we become more unified in our congregations to reach more people in our communities and across the globe. I encourage you to read Chan’s work with an open mind and heart. Reform is needed, but the Scriptures are our standard for any reform.

Amazon has this book available for $13.72