Thursday, June 30, 2005

Grieving the Spirit

One of the books I am reading at the moment is called God's New Community: New Testament patterns for todays church by Graham Beynon. It is a great little book of adapted sermons published by IVP and I am really enjoying it. There is nothing I have not heard before in it but it is making me think critically about church, especially as I am soon to be leading my cell group. I am not very far into it though, but the chapter I read today was looking at Ephesians 4. When I read it though I was struck by the context of the famous phrase 'do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God' (Eph. 4:30).

In the following two verses we read:

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (4:31-32)

So the Spirit it is grieved by un-kindness, and bad feelings towards other Christians (cf. also v.29 and v.25). But we have to look earlier in the chapter to find why that grieves the spirit. In 4:2-6 Paul links 'humility, and gentleness, with patience, [and] bearing one another in love', which we know from v. 30 grieves the Spirit, with the Spirit in a different way. In vv. 3-6 we read that we should do and feel these things towards our brothers and sisters in an attitude...

Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call - one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (my beautiful colours)

Graham Beynon uses this passage to describe how the church should grow, and downplays how important church unity is to it. This though is probably because he is dealing with that subject in both the chapter before and after the one in which he deals with Ephesians 4. But, church growth in the 'knowledge of the Son of God' (v.13) is necessarily linked to attaining 'the unity of the faith' (also v.13) and the two should be thought of as only occurring together. I have a few more reflections on this passage:

  1. The 'unity of the faith'/'unity of the Spirit' should ideally be an institutional unity as well as some vague feeling of fellowship including occasional cooperation which most evangelicals contend it is. I don't have time to argue that here though, and how that can happen without dilution of the verbal spreading of the gospel (the non-verbal witness is damaged by church disunity I think) is difficult.
  2. Unity is around Christ and the knowledge of him, which includes doctrine (vv.13-14).
  3. Unity is not just about agreeing on doctrine though, it also requires radical and difficult love between brothers and sisters.

Its difficult though, and will never be fully achieved this side of Christ's coming, and applying the truth is difficult to apply in many different ways.

[NB I suspect 1 Thessalonians 5:19 ('Do not quench the Spirit.') is something altogether different]

Last weekend, and damaging doctrine

I spent last weekend visiting a group of friends from Christian Union when I was at university. It was an amazing time of Christian fellowship, plain old fun, and R&R. Many of them are now involved in more mainline evangelical churches and organisations (e.g. UCCF, or the North West Partnership) than I am. This meant I had some interesting discussions because my theological pilgrimage over the past 2 years means I am now in a slightly different place to them. Having said that, if you scratch the surface to see below the books I read etc. I really have not changed that much (praise God). It was challenging to me to have discussions where the idea of doctrine being damaging was in issue. I was challenged that some of the books I read, though they have interesting ideas that are really beneficial to me, may not be morally good books. As I reflected on this I concluded that the idea of damaging doctrine was only held by them (and me, though I had almost forgotten it) because they (like me) believed doctrine should and can be beneficial and essential to the Christian’s life and is not just intellectually interesting.

I thank God for last weekend. It was something I need to hear. But how you balance ‘praising the good where you find it’ (as UCCF say) with saying suggesting people should look elsewhere for teaching, I have not quite worked out.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Sin and Reaching for the Invisible God

I was lent a Reaching for the Invisible God by Philip Yancey many months ago by a member of my cell group, but although I started it I didn’t finish it and it sat on my shelf for quite a long time. Sadly though my friend is leaving York and so my cell very soon and so I have to return it to him. Rather than give it back unread (which I think quite disrespectful) I have forced myself to finish it.

Philip Yancey is clearly an intelligent man who has read widely. He writes in what are effectively strings of thoughts or anecdotes. This means that it is hard to pin down what he is trying to say in a bullet point fashion of the sort that appeals to my analytical mind. Once I finished the book I tried to do just that, and produced something quite unhelpful. His contents page gave me the best clues though, and it suggested that the book was all about growing in a relationship with a invisible God who often ‘seems absent, indifferent or even hostile’. He has many things to say and stories to relate which hint at how such a relationship can be possible, and can be sustained.

Although I am slightly unsure of my feelings towards the book, I could make several comments on this blog. Some of these would be positive, for example commending his avoidance of easy answers, and others would be negative, he could for example be questioned about whether his heavy reliance on other peoples experiences and writings could suggest a lack of confidence in the ability of the bible to shed light on the concerns of the book. But I thought I would just briefly mention a concern of mine which persisted throughout my reading of it.

I was always concerned that Yancey doesn’t seem to bring sin into the question of our relationship with God. Having said that, he clearly thinks that we need to be reformed to reach the invisible God, and the spiritual disciplines are clearly close to his heart. However, I cannot help suspecting that for him sin is just an obstacle to be overcome in perusing a relationship with God. He seems to suggest that the only reason sin should concern us because it prevents us reaching God and so happiness, rather than because it is something that is a concern of God himself. In fact the word ‘sin’ is rarely mentioned by Yancey at all. This approach of Yancey’s contrasts strongly with that of the biblical writers. Paul leaves the blame for lack of knowledge of God firmly at the door of the sinner (Rom 1:20-23; Eph 4 :17-18). The psalmist can even call the one who doubts Gods existence a fool (Ps 14:1). Also, whereas Yancey points out how God’s ‘shyness’ can be for our good, God in the bible often announces that he is ‘shy’ because of the wrong we have done. Yancey does not mention that, perhaps because of the bad experiences he has had in the past with fundamentalist churches. Obviously, we too have to be careful here as everyone suffers doubts, and that does not mean we should doubt our salvation, or become paranoid introspective Christians. But I think we should doubt the motives of our doubts as much as we doubt the motives of our faith, if not more.

We should not dwell on sin for too long though, but move towards our hope for its destruction, and our new creation when there will be no more doubts. However, this leads me to a connected problem that I have with Yancey’s book. Even a book focused on the personal search for God, as his is, should surely highlight the work of Jesus in his death and resurrection in enabling a relationship to God to be enjoyed by sinners, but as far as I can remember Philip Yancey doesn’t mention it. This is saddening and not very honouring to Christ, but I will not dwell on it further.

I may be being too hard on Yancey because I do not totally understand his goals in writing this book. He has many good points to make, and pastoral responsibility is very important when talking about the relationship of our sin to our doubts. I also know that I have it far from sewn up, and could not even begin to imagine how I would write a book on our relationship to God. However, I think that Knowing God by Jim Packer would be a better choice for anyone wanting a book on this subject, although is style is no where near as good.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Bruce Longenecker on "the righteous" and "the sinners"

I read following today and thought, firstly, that it is interesting and beautiful theology, and secondly, it is worth praising God for. Then I thought what the heck lets type it all out.

In Early Judaism, whereas “the righteous” signified those who were members of God’s covenant people, the term “sinners” was frequently a signifier for “those outside the boundaries of the covenant” – and who were, therefore, in some form of fundamental opposition to god and his ways. Notions as to who was to be numbered among “the righteous” and who among “the sinners,” however, varied from situation to situation, according to the needs of self-definition within particular groups.

For many, the category of those within the covenant was quite large and included most of the Jewish people, who were designated “the righteous.” They were distinguished from the sinners” – that is, from Gentiles and those Jews who had blatantly sinned by intentionally disregarding of scorning covenant obligations, thereby breaking out of the boundaries of the covenant people. For others such as the covenanters at Qumran, the category of “the righteous” was far more restricted, encompassing a much smaller number of Jews who thought that they alone had been faithful before God. In such a restricted understanding, the large majority of Jewish people wee looked on as having abandoned their covenant status thereby, joining the ranks of “the sinners” along with the Gentiles.

In this way, terms like “righteous” and “sinner” operated in Early Judaism in relation to particular convictions about covenant fidelity (see Dunn, “Pharisees, Sinners and Jesus”). And the same was true of Paul. Thus, for example, in Gal 2:15-17 he follows the same simple rules of covenant definition in referring to these diverse categories – although in this view the embodiment of covenant faithfulness is to be found neither in an ethnic people (i.e. Israel), not in a sub-group within that people (e.g., the covenanters in Qumran), but in a single individual: Jesus Christ. It is Christ’s covenant faithfulness alone that is the basis of relationship with God and the vehicle through which God’s covenant righteousness is creating a new sphere of existence, a “new creation.” For Paul, the consequence of restricting the boundaries of covenant faithfulness to a single individual is that all others find themselves to be “sinners.” And such a redefinition may very well be what Paul had in mind when he wrote in Gal 2:17: “If, seeking covenant relationship ‘in Christ’, we ourselves were found to be sinners…”

Bruce W. Longenecker, "Contours of Covenant Theology in the Post-Conversion Paul" in The Road from Damascus: The Impact of Paul's Conversion on his Life, Thought, and Ministry ed. Richard N. Longenecker. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997, pp.138-139

I am not sure about what he says about Gal 2:17, although i am not sure he is either. But (and I may be wrong, becuase I haven't thought very hard), but isn't that the Gospel summed up, and isn't it great?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

lazy blogging

I swore I would never do it. But here are some quiz results on who I am. I just thought they were quite interesting. Particularly the quizes belief that Luther and Augustine were less like me than Schleiermacher and Tillich. I do think I of myself as an heir of Calvin though, and Barth and Anselm (or their followers) have been influential to my apologetic, and Anselm to my doctrine of the atonement.

You scored as John Calvin. Much of what is now called Calvinism had more to do with his followers than Calvin himself, and so you may or may not be committed to TULIP, though God's sovereignty is all important.

Karl Barth




John Calvin


Jürgen Moltmann


Jonathan Edwards


Friedrich Schleiermacher


Paul Tillich


Charles Finney


Martin Luther



Which theologian are you? created with

I think the results are largely because of my answer to a final question which asked me which of the following was the most important:

  • All Christian theology must begin with the revelation of Christ; or
  • God's sovereignty is supremely important in theological discussion.

I opted for the later after much hard thinking (taking 'God's sovereignty' in its broad sense).

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Singing the judgment

One of the top five blog posts I have ever read (in an admittedly short amount of time reading blogs) is Singing the Judgment by David Gibson at Beginnning with Moses (a new but great arrival to the blog scene). It really is an important post for all Christians to read. Ask yourself: 'When was the last time you sang about hell?'

P.S. I notice that I am writing as if someone is reading what I write, which is strange because they are not, but never mind. I also notice that I have posted more today than in all the last week.

The internet and sharing of ideas

I have just noticed that the latest issue of Christian counterculture (which I have just posted on) has clearly been written by a reader of A Caneday's blog, Wood Chips and Text Musings, as it has used the exact same quotes from NT Wright and TF Torrence. The TF Torrence quote coming from a old Briefing article now online. On top of that the quotes obviously came from one of the authors' books originally.

I just think its a very funny example of how the way people think is dependent on such a long chain of other peoples thought, going back to the beginning of time. Sometimes they admit their source sometimes they don't, sometimes they may not even be sure where they got it from, but whatever happens no (hu)man is an island. Blogging is quite transparent on this, containing an awful lot of explicit references to other peoples thoughts.

The quotes are worth reproducing once more I think, as they are quite good.

The Gospel must be preached in an evangelical way, that is, in accordance with the nature and content of the Gospel of free grace, else it is "another Gospel." It is not faith that justifies us, but Christ in whom we have faith. But the history of Protestantism shows that it is possible to speak of justification by faith in such a way that the emphasis is shifted from "Christ" to "me," so that what becomes finally important is "my faith," "my decision,", "my conversion," and not really Christ himself.

T. F. Torrance, God and Rationality
Nothing I haven't heard before but well put nonetheless.

It is important to stress, as Paul would do himself were he not so muzzled by his interpreters, that when he referred to "the gospel" he was not talking about a scheme of soteriology. Nor was he offering people a new way of being what we would call "religious". Despite the way Protestantism has used the phrase (making it denote, as it never does in Paul, the doctrine of justification by faith), for Paul "the gospel" is the announcement that the crucified and risen Jesus of Nazareth is Israel's Messiah and the world's Lord. It is, in other words, the thoroughly Jewish, and indeed Isaianic, message which challenges the royal and imperial messages in Paul's world.

N. T. Wright

Caneday links the Wright quote as coming from a lecture entitled Paul's Gospel and Caesar's Empire which seems to have been slightly adapted by Christian counterculture in their latest issue.

Phew! four posts in one day, have I nothing better to do?

Tom Wright downplaying Abraham

I have had some further thoughts on Watson’s essay (see previous post) and how it relates to Wright’s version of the New Perspective. My first thought is that Wright seems to have inherited the Israel-centric ideas of Second Temple Judaism. What I mean is that his focus is primarily the Exile of Israel, then the history of the nation of Israel as a whole, then creation, and like in Second Temple Judaism Abraham gets downplayed. Maybe that is unfair but that is my perception, and according Don Carson in his lectures on the New Perspective (see here) other people have noticed this Israel-centricity too. Perhaps this emphasis is due to Wright’s Historical Jesus studies, which rightly downplay Abraham’s importance to the discourse of Jesus with Palestinian Jews, but which, because of Wright’s evangelical confidence in the unity of the bible, have influenced his reading of Paul. I realise I may have opened a can of worms there but I will move on. On reflection my other thoughts are probably pap so I won’t bother writing them.
-----------------UPDATE (3rd July 2005)-----------------
On reflection, and having read an article by Wright in The Climax of the Covenant, I suspect that all that I wrote above is probably totally wrong. But I will leave it here as monument to the perils of 'push button publishing'.

The latest issue of Christian counterculture

There is just too much amazing and thought provoking stuff that I am finding on the internet at the moment. The trouble is it all demands careful and critical reading followed by application to my life. This is very time consuming and tiring. A case in point is the latest issue of Christian counterculture, a monthly newsletter from the same stables as The Discerning Reader, which contains carefully chosen extracts from various writers books. Christian counterculture, as others have noticed (e.g. Phil Johnson), has cut a different furrow from the firmly reformed (in the party sense of the word) one it was ploughing a few years back. As a result it is more interesting, challenging, worrying, and various other things, which mean its output needs (and at the same time deserves) careful and thoughtful (in other words discerning) reading. Anyway without further ado these are the contents of its latest issue entitled Good News:

Now For Some Good News . . . Steve Chalke
How Sweet the Sound? Donald McCullough
Paul's Gospel and Caesar's Empire Tom Wright
Athens Revisited Don Carson
On The Bookshelf New Reading for Postmodern Times
Good News rob schläpfer [editorial]

Francis Watson on the New Perspective

I have just read an unpublished paper of Francis Watson (Professor in New Testament Exegesis at the University of Aberdeen) entitled Not the New Perspective. Sections 3 and 4 were the most interesting, and are well worth reading for those who know something about the New Perspective. In section 3 he argues against one of five central tenants of the New Perspective that he identifies. He focuses on Sanders famous argument that Second Temple Jews believed themselves a people chosen by the grace of God (that is already saved), who simply need to respond by living righteously. I.e. there was no question of earning salvation, or ‘getting in’, for them, they only felt the need to obey the law (imperfectly) to ensure their ‘staying in’. Watson asserts that Second Temple Jews did not think like that at all; rather, they considered that ‘there is no act of divine election that establishes the basis of God’s relationship with Israel prior to and apart from the giving of the Law through Moses’. So, Watson argues, ‘covenant and law are indistinguishable from one another’ in the literature of Second Temple Judaism and this means that Sanders’ placing of the covenant as foundational and primary, and law as secondary, is entirely unwarranted. Because of this, his ideas on the beliefs of Second Temple Jews on the relation of divine and human agency in salvation, have to be seriously questioned. Paul, Watson argues, believed, contrary to the prevailing opinion of the time, that the covenant did come first and the law second. By divine grace the covenant was given to Abraham 430 years before the law came (Gal. 3:17), and so that ‘covenant of promise’ is foundational and primary, not the Sinai covenant. So Watson sees that Paul had a different hermeneutic, a different view of salvation history, than the Jews around him interpreting the same scriptures.

Monday, June 06, 2005

If Mr Goldsworthy met Mr Wright

As someone deeply influenced by the approach of both Graeme Goldsworthy, and Tom Wright, to the way the whole bible is should be read as a whole, I have always wondered what each approach would say to the other. Graeme Goldsworthy's review of The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story by Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen (a book much indebted to NTW) has given me a bit more of an idea. Thank you Beginning with Moses yet again.

Friday, June 03, 2005

What scripture does

I have just finished reading Scripture and the Authority of God, by N. T. Wright, in which he has addressed a subject I have wanted him to write a book on for some time. He had already written articles such as How Can The Bible Be Authoritative? (kindly provided by the N. T. Wright Page) but I wanted something fuller, and so snapped up this book.

One unusual feature of this book is that all the chapters and sections have long descriptive titles of the sort I thought had gone out in the 19th Century. So the 107 page book has 5 pages of contents. In honour of this welcome return to detailed contents I will attempt to highlight the most important and interesting ideas of the book using just the titles to a number of the sections.

  • [Chapters 1 and 2 were boring]
  • 'Authority of Scripture' is a Shorthand for God's Authority Exercised Through Scripture [hence the title of the book]
  • God's 'Authority' is Best understood within the Context of God's 'Kingdom'
  • Scripture thus Transcends (Though it Includes) 'Revelation' [because does not just contain information, but is a tool of God's which achieves something]
  • [having said that] Nor is Scripture Simply a Devotional Manual [because that downplays Scripture's wider role in the church and the world]
  • Apostolic Preaching of 'the Word': the Jesus-Story Fulfils the (OT) Scripture-Story [the bible narrative is unsurprisingly very important for Wright]
  • The Writers of the NT Intended to Energize, Shape and Direct the Church; Their writings Were Intended to be Vehicles of the Spirit's Authority, and were Perceived to b That in Fact [note the word 'Vehicles']
  • [...] the Scriptural Narrative (Creation Spoiled and Restored, Covenant Broken and Renewed) was Reaffirmed [by the early church fathers] over against De-Storied, Anti-Creation and Anti-Jewish Alternatives
  • The Narrative Character, and 'Israel' - Dimension of scripture Were Gradually Displaced by Scripture being Seen as Merely Either 'Court of Appeal' or the Focus of Lectio Divina [this was the most challenging to me; I must try to accept Scripture's Authority over myself and the world and not use it as a Court of Appeal, a serious problem with my Church in York. I think working through whole bible books is key here, replacing the pick-and-mix counter]
  • The Reformers and the Story of God [Wright clearly thinks the Reformers were great, except for their ignoring of the Scriptural narrative, a serious offence in his book]
  • [Chapters 8-10 were Wright rambling without really saying anything worth repeating]

A good book overall, with Wright's usual strengths and weaknesses. It was quite challenging and has got me reading the bible according to a daily plan again, which I am really enjoying (Thank you God). On the other hand he totally ignored Inerrancy and broader issues of historicity which are of huge importance to me and others day to day submitting to God's authority in Scripture. Maybe it is not that important in the big scheme of things, but for my daily interaction with the Scriptures, it is very, very important, and I hoped Wright could cut a way through the Inerrancy arguments to some light on the matter. So I was slightly disappointed.

The Purpose-Driven Cheese® (!)

Thanks to David over at Beginning with Moses for pointing out the following mildly funny, and mildly unfair review of Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven® Life featuring in the Credenda Agenda. The most funny, because it is the most true, aspect of the review is itscomparisonn with a Weight-Loss book.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

'All the host of heaven shall rot away'

I read Isaiah 34 today which contained the following which I do not remember reading before.

Isaiah 34-2-5 For the LORD is enraged against all the nations, and furious against all their host; he has devoted them to destruction, has given them over for slaughter. Their slain shall be cast out, and the stench of their corpses shall rise; the mountains shall flow with their blood. All the host of heaven shall rot away, and the skies roll up like a scroll. All their host shall fall, as leaves fall from the vine, like leaves falling from the fig tree. For my sword has drunk its fill in the heavens; behold, it descends for judgment upon Edom, upon the people I have devoted to destruction.

There are a number of notable things about this passage:

  1. The jump from the judgment of the nations to judgment in heaven, and then back again (namely to Edom). Walter Wink and Tom Wright amongst other may have something to say here about territorial spirits and the like. This passage though is a bit obtuse and a simple one-to-one relationship of nations to spirits/angels I do not think can be found here. They are clearly separate (cf. v.5 especially) but must be linked in some way in the thought of the writer.
  2. The first thing that happened when I read this passage was an alarm going off, saying didn't Jesus say he saw something like this thing being predicted. I looked it up and he did - in Luke 10:17-20.
    The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!" And he said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
    I think this means that Jesus saw the judgment of Satan's host in the (evangelistic/proclamatory) ministry of the seventy-two. So, according to Isaiah 34, following this event that evangelism effects(I presume that it is unlikely to accompany on the seventy-two's work) is the judgment of Edom (or more broadly the nations, or as we Christians understand it now non-Christians). This fits in well with my understanding of God's plan for the world which is encouraging. Another thing I notice in the saying of Jesus is his warning to the seventy-two not to value their new found authority more than their salvation. As our role as Christians in judging the world (cf. 1 Cor 6:2) is in my view one of the most unjustly ignored doctrines of the bible, I should be careful too not to value it too highly.
  3. The third notable thing is that there is so much of the bible I overlook. I never expected to find something in Isaiah 34 today of such significance to my life, but was also not something I had been over a thousand times before. I must mull over Isaiah 34 some more

Some of that was the word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God!!

[apologies to Thomas Cranmer]

P.S. although MS Word does not recognise it, 'proclamatory' is a real word according to the Oxford English Dictionary, and a great one at that.

Me and my blogging

I thought I would just get down a few quick thoughts on my short relationship with blogs and blogging.

  1. My first thought is that I love reading so many stimulating thoughts from such a diverse group of people as I do since I have started reading blogs regularly (just a couple of months ago). It is far more personal than I thought, and yet less than I thought as well. The level of interaction, and of details about the most boring personal details of bloggers lives is not as high as I thought it would be in the group of blogs I read. On the other hand, it reminds me of university listening to different peoples thoughts, not all of which are significant, but most of which are interesting.
  2. My second thought is that I love blogging. Since I started reading other blogs I have 'got' what blogging is, when previously my attempts were boring and not much fun to write. Short posts on little thoughts which are not all together in my mind are the order of the day.
  3. My third thought is that if anyone started reading this blog I would enjoy it much less. The responsibility of being an influence on others on many important matters would make me feel like I would need to post polished thoughts that would be a burden to produce. In addition I would feel like I needed to blog regularly. Having said that, much of the reason it is fun is because I think someone may one day read it, a feeling that comes largely from the act of reading others blogs, especially those with the same design template.

Well there we go - not very profound and not very polished.

Pharisees and sinners

I feel guilty about doing this, but I am going to copy an entire post off another blog. I only do it because I fear if I do not I will forget about the point made before I have time to mull it over. This, I suspect, is important to our interpretation of the Gospels and I must not forget it even though it is 2am.

Here we go:

Luke 6.32: "If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them." Jesus knew that everyone was evil (except him) and that everyone sinned. Nevertheless, he used the term "sinner" for an identifiable class, just like the Pharisees. (Matthew, Mark, and Luke do the same as narrators.) When the Pharisees objected to fellowhip with sinners, they were not claiming that they never sinned.

Thanks Mark Horne

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.