In a result that shocks no one, the most "helpful" book of all is "The Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren. One of every five pastors (21%) named it the single most helpful book they've read in 36 months. Interestingly, the larger the church - the more likely the pastor agreed with this assessment.
Just behind PDL was Warren's first book, "The Purpose Driven Church" with a score of 15%. The rst of the list of invaluable books include the following titles:
- Philip Yancey's "What's So Amazing About Grace"
- Jim Cymbala's "Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire"
- John Edldredge's "Wild At Heart"
- Bill Hybel's "Courageous Leadership"
- Henry Blackaby's "Spiritual Leadership"
- Andy Stanley's "Next Generation Leader" and
- John Maxwell's "21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership"
Stunning is the only word to describe Eldredge's inclusion on this list with his ridiculous assertions that God, not knowing the future, takes great risks in dealing with fickle mankind and his dubious theme that every man's biggest problem is failing to fulfill the need to fight a fight and rescue his own personal damsel. Eldredge can claim all he wants that his book is Christian because of his frequent use of out-of-context passages from the Bible but the end result is mere humanism and psychology wrapped in a thin veil of Christianity. It speaks volumes about the Protestant world that this book has been so widely embraced.
Then we have the four books on leadership gracing pastoral studies as more and more men fall into the trap of thinking they must be well-paid (I mean successful) C.E.O. (I mean pastor) managing (I mean leading) their corporations (I mean, churches) to earn higher dividends (I mean grow) instead of being content to be a serving shepherd (I mean serving shepherd) of their flocks.
Barna went to the trouble to categorize the most influential books into various categories. Again, the results are less than encouraging. The most popular category is personal growth, which was listed at least once by 54% of the pastors. The second leading category concerns church growth (23%), then leadership (22%). No other books garned more than ten per cent.
Where are the books on theology? Oh yeah, they came in at 9%. Where are the books on biblical studies? They didn't make the cut. Where are the commentaries? Left on the bookstore shelves, I suppose.
Barna tried to make some sense of the fallout. Try to wrap your minds around this quote from Barna: "Pastors of mainline churches were more than twice as likely as their colleagues from non-mainline Protestant churches to cite specific theology books." This means liberal pastors from such denominations as the Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America care more about their theology (aberrant though it may be) than conservative Baptists and Presbyterians.
And it's not the old-guard that is the troubling demographic. Pastors under the age of forty championed some rather surprising choices for influential authors suc as business consultant James Collins and nineteenth century Seventh-Day Adventist icon Ellen White. When surveying these younger pastors thoughts (and, God help me, I fall into this group), Barna said, "Given the divergent points of view that they consider most helpful and influential, it seems likely we will continue to see new forms and strategies emerge in their churches. They lean toward books and authors that extol adventure, shared experiences, visionary leadership, supernatural guidance and relational connections. . . . The new legion of young pastors may be primed to introduce new ways of thinking about Christianity and church life."
SCARY, ISN'T IT?
Were Jesus to walk the earth in our day, I suspect He'd turn over the tables at the local Lifeway Bookstore instead of in the Temple.