June 01, 2005

Re: Who is Your Pastor Reading?

From STR's Blog.
A recent Barna survey reveals the books and authors that have most influenced today's pastors. The survey finds a qualitatively different list of books than Stand to Reason’s recommended reading list.

My Response: a couple of points...

a) The article stated that this was "the list of books that pastors say have influenced them the most in the past three years." I believe it would be fair to say many (not all) of the books that are in your recommending reading were not published in the last three years. This is a major point you are disregarding.

b) That said it is also more likely that since many of those books were published a while ago, many of these pastors may have read those books a number of years ago, and while they influence their worldviews, they don’t come to mind right off the top of their heads.

c) Frankly, while I value many of the books you recommend, few of them have really influenced me one way or another, or had a tremendous impact. This isn't due to fact that they weren't useful, just that more then often they codified a belief or knowledge I already had, and didn't really affect my day to day life, but rather lend to my worldview.

d) You assertion that these books "Qualitatively" differ from the books on STR’s list is completely off --- how do you come about this judgment? Nearly all the book on your list are Apologetic books, nothing wrong with that ---- I love them, and have read many of them. I wouldn't be surprised many of those pastors surveyed have read them too --- however I don't expect these books to have "influenced them the most." A Pastors job is not the same as STR's job --- while it is important for Pastors to have a solid understanding of apologetics, reason, and history --- this is not, and should not be their primary concern.

e) Conversely had these Pastors mentioned a number of the books on your list as recently influencing them --- I'd actually be scared --- the subject of the books you recommend shouldn’t be a surprise, or change their lives --- they should already know this stuff!


At June 02, 2005 6:11 AM, Blogger Jackson said...

I read your response on STR and it said what I wanted to say but didn't have the time or words. So, good job.

At June 02, 2005 9:19 AM, Anonymous Brett Kunkle said...

A couple of points in response...

a) You misread the first part of the article. As you quoted, the article list the "books that pastors say have influenced them the most in the past three years." This list is not limited to only the books that have been published in the past three years. Just a few examples of the books the article cites: The Purpose Driven Church was published in 1995, Wild at Heart in 2001, and 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership in 1998. Thus, this list refers to ALL books.

b) Regarding those books on the STR list that were published a while back, I can concede this may be a fair point. However, I think you are much more optimistic than I am when you state that "many of these pastors may have read those books a number of years ago."

c) I don't buy the false dichotomy between one's belief, knowledge, and worldview and one's "day to day life." All ideas have consequences for daily life.

d) I come about this judgement by simply looking at the contents of the books. If you can't see a qualitative difference between Elridge's Wild at Heart and Lewis' The Weight of Glory then I'm not sure what to say. I think it is pretty clear that there is a depth of Christian thought and intellectual rigor found in the books on STR's list that are not found in the books on Barna's list.

Furthermore, I would argue that if pastors and churches were doing all they were suppose to be doing (according to the New Testament) then there would be no need for organizations like STR. One of the pastor's primary concerns should be theology and apologetics (see Titus 1:9).

e) Again, I think you may be much more optimistic than I about what pastor's already know. From my experience working with numerous churches and pastors, I can say that many pastors don't know this stuff!

Finally, I in no way indicated that STR's list is THE comprehensive and final book list. I was simply pointing out the qualitative difference I think is obvious in the KINDS of books we see on each list.

Thanks for the comments,

At June 02, 2005 1:33 PM, Blogger Justin Jenkins said...


I can see what you are saying --- and accept your much of your response --- thank you for responding to my points. Apparently I was wrong about the publishing criteria, however this is really just a side point to my observation, and perhaps I am more optimistic then you are.

My main point is this --- the type of books on STR's list are important, even foundational in many ways for their "knowledge" --- but knowledge I think is something that often fades into the background, and blurs into their worldview (head knowledge and everyday life.) This is what I'm getting at, while what one reads in an apologetic book hopefully sticks with them, and is needed if you want to be able to properly defend and articulate your faith --- it may not be the sort of thing that the Pastor actually views as influencing them recently. I'm not saying it doesn't affect them rather that the title of the book for example doesn't come to mind.

Believe me I think every Pastor should be reading the books on your list, and Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Lewis, Colson ... however I can perfectly understand how a book like The Purpose Driven Church would have influenced these pastors in some way or another in the past 3 years, since it written for Pastors and Elders, and is designed to help them run their Church's better by encouraging the members of the Church to be more involved and other such methods.

That said, this was kind of an odd survey, they didn't really explain the questions asked, nor how many answers were allowed to be given.

While like I said, I *hope* apologetic books don't need to "influence" these pastors --- but instead edify their faith --- and I don't buy the idea that scholarly tomes are somehow of more quality (or value) then books that aren’t (i.e. Lewis’ Great Divorce and Narnia had more of an "impact" on me then The Weight of Glory.)

My general thought here was again, that the sort of books that come to mind when a random Pastor is phoned and asked what books most influenced them in the past three years --- apologetic books are unlikely to have come to mind first, where as a "What's so amazing about Grace?" might have a more emotional connection, and pop in.


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