Most Christian Books Are As Dry As The Moon, Or Things Are Just Never As They Should Be

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.

One of the books that inspired this post. Better than anything John Piper writes (to me).

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).

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12 Responses to Most Christian Books Are As Dry As The Moon, Or Things Are Just Never As They Should Be

  1. David says:

    This is actually a great post – a peak above the rest of the mountains in the CCC ranges.

    We need the Bible, and an occasional book or sermon to help us understand so that we can gain the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2) We should study. AS a teacher and long time Christians with both bible school and some cemetery, there things that are good to know – they make our relationship with Jesus deeper.

    So let me get this right, memoirs are testimonies about walking with Christ? Revelations 12:11 They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony. I like that.

    Here four great books that are just of the “me and Jesus” variety. They are all written by folks that never went to cematery. I think you’ll like them. As always, if you hate them, I will refund your money in an Amazon gift certificate.

    Like a Mighty Wind
    I Beleive in Miracles
    Smith Wigglesworth
    The God Smuggler

    I’ll be interested in your reviews.

  2. Larry Hughes says:

    The theological books do have some good points to ponder and I have learned things but most seem rather dry to me to a point. Most theological writers seem to propose their thoughts as the true gospel over other’s thoughts.

    However, I do like to read more about testimonials and reality experiences on one’s quest to be close to God. Makes better reading and easier to relate to.
    However, the Bible for most is quite capable of enriching the soul.

    • I agree, a big problem that arises with theological writers is they let knowledge get to their head, and they think they have some invisible authority and a lid on the true gospel – which of course means lots of other people don’t have it.

  3. Chris says:

    Boy Charlie it’s hard to keep up with you. 😉

    You touched on about 4 or 5 potential topics in this one post. Let me take a crack at one or two.

    First, the idea that you like female authors more than male isn’t that surprising.
    I really don’t mean that in any pejorative way. I find that typically the less conservative among us gravitate towards the feminine side of our faith, meaning our sisters in Christ. Again, I’m not at all saying this is bad. There could be many reasons for this. It could be because our sisters bring something to the table that has been for so long missing in the church. Who knows, it could be God’s way of balancing a male dominated church structure. But this is all conjecture on my part. If the bible is your authority you’re going to have problems with a female dominated church structure. You will of necessity have to begin deconstructing Holy Writ.
    When I was part of a very liberal mainline church and denomination, women pastors and ministers were (and are) very much part of the norm and not the exception. But I found in many ways the church (and denomination) to be very much unbalanced the other way. IMHO I found it to be over-mothered and under-fathered. The key is finding that balance. Many things can become acceptable and seem reasonable once we go beyond what is written. Again, I think the feminine presence, and voice, is needed in the church. The struggle for me at least, is to be sure all things fall within the council of the Word, as antiquated as that sounds.

    I like Donald Miller’s writing. I think he gave one of the best descriptions and explanations ever of man’s fall in the garden in “Searching For God Knows What”.
    But it’s important to try to break out of our comfort zone and stretch a bit and take in some older Christian literature. The Cost Of Discipleship by Bonhoeffer is a great example. It is a faith affirming and challenging book. I’m just finishing up (after 8 months on and off) Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky. It was one I always wanted to read but was a bit intimidated by. I had always heard that this was such a classic and I’ve made it a point to try to read some of the great classics. This is not a light read. It’s work at times. But it has payed in dividends through its amazing prose, posing some very deep questions as well as giving me insight to an interesting time in history.

    But to your main question. I would like to see a more active and less passive laity. I personally don’t like being so passive in church. That’s why I tend to involve myself more in the small groups (home and study) and get-togethers. I think this is where real fellowship and relationships happen. Not on Sunday. I think I’d be OK with a more interactive church experience with more and various individuals (not groups) being heard from. I could also easily see how this could be abused. But I’m also OK with church on Sunday as it has been traditionally experienced. I think there can be God-honoring going on in both types of churches.

    • I am definitely in agreement that we shouldn’t over correct the male dominated structure by gravitating to the other side – the feminine side as you call it. A balance is what is needed, and we certainly are not balanced right now. I imagine some of my enjoyment of female writers is simply its a brand new perspective for me, especially since I am, in fact, a male.

      I LOVE Donald Miller’s Searching for God Knows What – I thought it blew Blue Like Jazz out of the water. I would be interested in reading some classics, and I have done so a handful of times, though it does often seem like “work” to me.

      I’m definitely in an anti-Sunday morning passive participation phase right now, so I’d be interested to hear more about how moving towards a more open participation could have its own downfalls and abuses…

  4. Su says:

    I’m with you– I’m such a sucker for a good memoir. Some of the best books I’ve read, Christian and otherwise, have been by everyday people writing about everyday things in a brilliant way.

    I’m definitely more in the “let a few people share” camp than in the “one guy gives the sermon every week” camp. I prefer variety, and also think the main guy probably deserves a week off from time to time.

    • I’m amazed pastors can even come up with 50 minutes worth of material on a weekly basis. That’s a ton! I suppose that’s why so many just go on rants about the new thing they don’t like – they’re simply out of ideas and need to fill some space.

      What are some of your favorite memoirs (Christian, preferably)? You’re probably the most well read person I “know.”

  5. jay sauser says:

    I really liked this one man. You made good points. Thanks. Sorry I don’t have any jokes or cute sayings like i normally do for you. 🙂

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