Wednesday, June 08, 2005

This explains a LOT!

A recent survey from the Barna Group revealed some sad truths about the reading habits of America's pastors. A cross-section of Protestant pastors were surveyed to determine books they found influential, not just the books considered "best-sellers." When pastors were asked to identify books that had been most helpful over the last three years, over two hundred works were listed but only NINE were mentioned by at least 2%.

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"
What a sad commentary! The one book filling the minds of most pastors in our country is the too-popular piece from Warren, followed by some nice stories by Yancey and Cymbala's encouraging words.

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."


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.

1 comment:

PL said...


True, sad, and scary. It has always bothered me greatly to hear friends ask me if I've read, Wild at Heart, Purpose Driven Everything, and many others. My response has been no. I haven't read them for several basic reasons. The first is that I do not have time to properly study the Bible, let alone read someone else’s thoughts about the Bible. You see, I'm a rather slow reader in that I read for substance, so for me to read anything, it had better be worth it. Second, most of the guys that I hear really talking about and reading all these "books of the month" are great guys that love the LORD, but have never impressed me as theological GIANTS. Next when I have read portions of these books, the way that they grab verses to suit their theological point scares me and makes me nauseous. Many times they have valid biblical truths and points to make but, do not use the correct passages in proving them, or they simply grab verses to make a point. Please understand that I do not claim to be a theological GIANT or a highly educated person, nor do I claim to sit in judgment of the writer of these books, nor those that read them, but I do have to examine, the Godly impact of their lives six months after reading these materials. To me the ONLY book that has consistently brought about lasting change in my life is the Bible and God knows I spend enough time ready and learning about other areas of my life such as family, scouting, business, and kayaking, so to spend time reading a "theological" (loosely interpreted) book other than the Bible or how to study the Bible, to me is a waste of time. Dr. G once said that America's theology is like a vast ocean that stretches from Canada to Mexico and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The problem is that is only inches deep in depth and as soon as the heat of trials and tribulations come out, it dries up and turns to a dust bowl. My personal goal is to learn to dig deeper, so when the Trials do come, and they will, I don't turn into a tumble weed. I know that in my life, the adversary has brought the temptation of doing good things, in the place of the right things, and there is always the temptation to read good books in the place of THE BOOK. My hope and prayer is that America will wake up and spend time in THE BOOK and stop reading so many books written by people about the book. If we did then all the Dr. Advises, Jerry Sluggards, Oprah’s and all the other advise.coms would disappear. GOD created us, why won’t we read HIS manual?

2:56 PM