Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Disturbing statistics

Barna have done a survey of church leaders in the US on their most influential authors and books, and there is little more disturbing that I have ever read about the church in America (what the statistics would be here I don't know). Consider the following on the most influential authors:

Although the numerous books cited by pastors were authored by dozens of writers, there were only ten authors who were listed by at least 2% of the pastors interviewed. Not surprisingly, Rick Warren was king-of-the-hill in this listing, as his books were mentioned by 30% of the pastors. John Maxwell was the runner-up, with books listed as among the most helpful by 5% of pastors. Five writers were mentioned by 3% of the nation’s church leaders: Henry Blackaby, Jim Cymbala, Bill Hybels, Andy Stanley, and Phil Yancey. The other influential authors were George Barna, John Eldredge and John Piper, each of whom was mentioned by 2%.
The overwhelming dominance of Rick Warren on the thinking of the church in America is not surprising, but it is saddening. I do not have much against his work, but his popularity seems to be nothing to do with quality of insight and all to do with marketing. Also the importance of John Piper to the American church has to be acknowledged by those who like me think he is the only author listed worth strongly recommending. As a consequence I think prayer for his work would be great.

More depressing than the popularity of mediocre authors though is the following:

When the books designated as the most helpful were categorized, there were three types of books that pastors found to be most profitable. A majority of pastors (54%) listed at least one book regarding discipleship or personal spiritual growth. Books about church growth, congregational health or ministry dynamics were the next most prolific, listed by 23% of pastors. Leadership books were equally valued, identified by 22%. No other category was cited by at least 10% of the sample. Less influential types of books included those about theology (9%), evangelism and outreach (6%), pastoring (6%), and prayer (5%). Books regarding charismatic perspectives (5%), trends and cultural conditions (4%), and preaching (3%) also generated noteworthy interest.

I just feel like screaming for the sidelining of theology (translated: talk about God, surely what we are all about), evangelism, prayer, preaching and pastoring.

I want to say so much but I cannot bring myself to write anymore, sorry. It is one of those things that you need to talk to the individuals concerned about, and to pray about. Not something to agonise over in private, or with like thinking people.


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