Eons ago in blog terms I wrote about how I’m somewhat of a Christian book geek. I tend to buy in spurts, collecting seven at one time and then buying nothing for four months. My book buying instincts have flared up again, and I’m on the prowl. No credit card has been charged yet.
The Christian genre has expanded considerably. It’s not simply the Bible anymore of course. There are plenty of books out there by pastors or evangelists or ministers trying to make x point, or explaining how to create this type of Bible study, or x number of steps to becoming y in your church, or outlining a certain type of curriculum – but I don’t connect with those books.
Frankly they’re boring. I read a few, but it takes me months to work through them.
In recent years, thanks in large part to Donald Miller, the spiritual memoir genre has exploded on the scene. Everyone wants to write a spiritual memoir. Yet this is the stuff I connect with. I eat ’em up. I read three memoirs in the time it takes to get through a pastor’s “how to.” Yes, it probably seems corny and pop-Christianity, but there is something about telling stories rather than debating theology or step by step processes to solve whatever problem it is occurring.
Though the aim of these books is not to teach, I end up walking away far more enriched and nourished than a book comprised of a collection of sermons. Interestingly, its not generally pastors or people in professional ministry that are writing these memoirs – its the lay people, the ones in the pews taking it all in. Despite their lack of a seminary education or ministry experiences they are ones that touch my heart – not the books by guys who’s job it is to prepare heart-changing sermons every week.
It would seem like the professionals would be the ones feeding my soul, but instead it’s my fellow no-name-church-goer. It’s like a classic upside reversal story straight out of the gospels.
The memoir isn’t trying to tell me to do anything, the author isn’t listing ought-to’s or should do’s, nor are they writing explanations of doctrine. It’s a lot less formal and technical, and a lot more wishy-washy and artful. But this is what breaks through heart walls, not systematic theology.
Which leads to me to my next point – that I recently noticed that I prefer female writers over male. To some this may sound like the equivalent of “my television set never leaves the Lifetime channel,” but that’s not the case. In general (of course) women tend to write far more reflectively and story-like, whereas the men writing Christian books are often coming across as an authority, a person who’s opinion is to be respected. In writing this way, you easily lose the ability to show your beating heart.
Hopefully this isn’t a can of worms being opened, but realizing my preference for female voices in Christian books has me wondering how different churches could be if they weren’t so male dominate. I’m not trying to inspire a debate on whether or not women should be pastors, I’m just stating I find this interesting.
All of this leads me with lots of questions and what if’s – what if we moved beyond the sermon-based service format, what if the church heard more than just the voice of one dominant group. Thoughts?
(and no I’m not advocating no one ever teach anything ever, just that we reduce our dependency).