Sunday, November 1, 2009

Cliche Driven Pastors

I find this study, depressing. It's a look at what pastors around the country are reading. I suppose the good news is that there isn't much commonality. The bad news is the one thing everyone seems to have in common is Rick Warren's "Purpose Driven" series. More ministers have read it, and more cite it as influential in their ministry than any other book (I'm hoping this study excludes the Bible). Furthermore, the bigger your church is the more likely you are to regard Warren as influential to your thinking.

There are definitely worse books out there than Warren's drivel, but there are also much better. Pastors it seems are largely reading fluff books from the Christian living genre, instead of serious theology. More pastors have read something by Joel Osteen than by folks like Bonhoeffer, Yoder, Hauerwas, Brueggeman, Wright, Barth, Wink, Niebuhr, or Tillich. We are more likely to be influenced by Rob Bell or Mark Driscoll than by David Hart or Karl Rahner.

Despite how it sounds this isn't an elitist whine. It is anti-elitist. I have no problem with the C.S. Lewis popular style of writing. Marcus Borg, Brian McLaren, Sara Miles and Carol Howard have all written books of this type I enjoyed and have encouraged others to read. But if anyone should be mining the riches of James Alison, or Marilyn McCord Adams, or Gustavo Gutierrez, shouldn't it be pastors? How else is this kind of vibrant beautiful theology going to get into our churches? Don't we lose something if the only level of discourse we are having is at the "purpose driven" level?


Jodie said...

the study was done back in 2004. PDL was a fad then, gone now. I bet the answer today would be different. Which makes me wonder if "most useful" or "most influential" is a transitional perception.

What I get from 100,000 feet is a sense of searching. Nothing is really working. Trying to figure out what is leadership and if it matters is an issue.

Also this:

" Pastors who lead charismatic or Pentecostal congregations were by far the least likely to include books on theology among their chosen titles: only 2% did so."

I've noticed.

Aric Clark said...

I should have looked at the date. That was silly of me.

That being said, I doubt the basic trend of pop-lit outweighing theology on pastor's reading lists has changed.