Review of ‘Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul’ by Bill Hybels

Simplify Bill Hybels, Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale Momentum, 2014). Hardcover / Kindle

This past summer was exhausting. Between work, chauffeuring our son to three sports on four different days, shuttling our oldest foster daughter to daycare and speech care, waking up several times a night to bottle feed our youngest foster daughter, and church and other activities, my wife and I felt tapped out. And so, when Bill Hybels mentioned the words “exhausted, overwhelmed, overscheduled, anxious, isolated, dissatisfied” on page 1 of his new book, he immediately grabbed my attention.

“Simplified living is about more than doing less,” Hybels writes. “It’s being who God called us to be, with a wholehearted, single-minded focus. It’s walking away from innumerable lesser opportunities in favor of the few to which we’ve been called and for which we’ve been created. It’s a lifestyle that allows us, when our heads hit the pillow at night, to reflect with gratitude that our day was well invested and the varied responsibilities of our lives are in order” (pp. 2–3). He goes on to write, “Simplified life requires more than just organizing your closets or cleaning out your desk drawers. It requires uncluttering your soul” (p. 3, emphasis in original).

Hybels shares Bible-based, experience-tested advice about how to do this in the book’s ten chapters. He shows you how to move from

  • exhausted to energized by replenishing your energy,
  • overscheduled to organized by prioritizing your calendar,
  • overwhelmed to in control by mastering your finances,
  • restless to fulfilled by refining your career choices,
  • wounded to whole by practicing forgiveness,
  • anxious to peaceful by confronting your fears,
  • isolated to connected by deepening your friendships,
  • drifting to focused by choosing and then living out your life verse,
  • stuck to moving on by welcoming new seasons in your life,
  • and from meaningless to satisfied by choosing to live now in the light of eternity.

Different readers will be attracted to different sections of this book. At this season in my life—feeling busy and tired all the time—I was especially interested in the first two chapters dealing with energy and calendar. As I read the book, however, I found myself reading the chapter on friendships with closer attention. Could it be that my life has too few deep relationships with non-family members? Whatever your interests or needs, my guess is that several of these chapters will address felt needs in your life.

So, what’s the best way to make use of this book? First, it’s tailor-made for individual use. Each chapter ends with an action step for readers to journal about. Page 311 gives a URL and promo code for online resources that readers can access for 90 days. Second, there is a DVD-based small group curriculum that can be used alongside the book. And third, I can imagine enterprising pastors using the book and DVD curriculum as elements of a multiweek sermon series campaign.

Now that I’ve read the book, I intend to read it again with my wife, working through those chapters that address issues we are experiencing in our current season of life. “We get one shot at this life,” Hybels writes in conclusion. “Choose a purposeful, God-first life, and you will reap rewards for today and for eternity” (p. 282).

P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my review page.



Bill Hybels, Axiom: Powerful Leadership Proverbs (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008). $18.99, 224 pages.

Twenty years ago, I attended Willow Creek Church for the first time. My first impression wasn’t positive. The church was large, the campus sprawling, and the service a performance. Bill Hybels’ message that day – if memory serves – lasted about 45 minutes. As a college senior about to embark on a career in ministry, I thought to myself, “If this is the future of church, God help us all.”

Ten years later, I attended my first Leadership Summit with my senior pastor and another colleague. This time, I was bowled over by the content of the seminars, the quality of the music and dramas, and the depth of hard-won wisdom that lay behind Bill Hybels’ 75-minute presentation. I thought to myself, “This is the future of leadership.”

Willow Creek hadn’t changed. I had. My experience in local-church ministry showed me the value of what that church was doing. I don’t agree with every jot and tittle of Willow’s methodology, but I’ve stopped pretending that I know how to lead people better than Bill Hybels.

Axiom is Bill Hybels’ distillation of 30+ years of learning about leadership in proverb form. It is a gem that belongs on the shelf of anyone who leads, especially if they are ministers leading churches. I say especially, not only, because while Bill Hybels leads a church, the proverbs in this book have a much wider application.

The book contains 76 chapters divided into four categories: vision and strategy, teamwork and communication, activity and assessment, and personal integrity. The title of each chapter is a proverb. The chapters themselves are short. Each one includes real-life examples that helped Hybels formulate the leadership proverb. My favorite chapters were Language Matters; An Owner or a Hireling; Never Say Someone’s No for Them; Speed of the Leader, Speed of the Team; Umbrella of Mercy; The Bias toward Action; Find the Critic’s Kernel of Truth; Never Beat the Sheep; Obi-Wan Kenobi Isn’t for Hire; Always Take the High Road; and Excellence Honors God and Inspires People.

As I wrote above, I don’t agree with everything in Willow Creek’s seeker-sensitive methodology. But Bill Hybels is a leader, and Axiom deserves a wide reading by church leaders.


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