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The recent Barna report, forwarded to me by my colleague, Ginny Olson, publishes its findings about books pastors are reading and who their favorite authors are.
The question seems to be this: “What are the three books that had been most helpful to you as a ministry leader in the last 3 years?” This question, so it seems to me, shifts the question toward leadership books, but also in the survey are books about discipleship. So, maybe the question is a little more general.
Two observations before I report the obvious: the first is that in the last 25 years the shift from Seminary and Christian college professors writing for the lay person is almost complete or even absolute. When I was a kid and when I was in college, Christian life books were written by and large by academics who knew how to write for lay persons. In the late 70s and 80s those professors became more and more interested in their academic calling — and I’m one of them — and so began writing academic monographs and detailed historical and technical studies. Fine, but in the process they surrendered their right to speak to the lay person. And when they did the books were too academic, too hard to read for the average person, and so they turned to other writers. Which leads to my second point. The lull was picked up by pastors who began writing books (or ghost writing their books) for lay persons and their books have sold and sold. The names are well known: Rick Warren, Max Lucado, Bill Hybels, John Ortberg, John Eldredge, and also Joyce Meier and Beth Moore and the like.
And now with the Emergent folk rising to the top with voices that are being listened to, we are finding yet another set of writers who are both listening to the Church and speaking that voice and for that voice. I could add the appeal that more academics would begin to listen more intently to the Church so that what they have to say can be read and digested and can bring benefit to the Chrisitian life.
So who won the Barna study?
Rick Warren’s two books, The Purpose Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life won hands down, with a other authors noted — Philip Yancey, Max Lucado, John Eldredge.