Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Churchy Books

As I move towards (God willing) a new chapter in my life as a student, I'm anticipating a significant increase in the amount of reading that I'm required to do.  I always read, of course.  I love reading, be it hard sci fi or philosophy or Christian mysticism or one of the wonderful books that trickle down from my wife's longstanding book group.  Such admirable and sophisticated taste, those women have.  Whether it be for pleasure or just part of my compulsive tendency to learn, I gets me plenty o' readin'.

But since I got my M.Div. oh so many moons ago, there's a genre of books that I've not really cracked all that much.  It's what I like to call the "Churchy Book."  Meaning, it's a book that's written by Christians, for Christians, but doesn't explore faith per se.  Instead, such books talk at great lengths about the dynamics of being church.  What does it mean to be church?  What does it mean to lead a church?  How can we assess the health of churches as organizations?  Such books contain metrics and measures.  Charts and graphs.  Hey...why are you wandering off...

Honestly, I don't mind these books.  Heck, I know people who write them.  I like those people.

But sometimes, I wonder how much all that writing about churchy stuff gets to be "inside baseball" talk.  Instead of singing about the joys of the game, some of what I've read is the Jesus equivalent of four guys sitting in the SportsCenter analyzing baseball contract negotiations for an hour. It makes us feel smart and aware and...well...churchy...to know this stuff.  But the crack of a well struck ball or a blindingly perfect pitch or the athleticism of a leaping catch aren't anywhere to be found.  People who aren't already into the game would quickly change the channel.

Now that I'm diving into a 30 hour training program for pastors who specialize in managing transitions, and then starting doctoral work, I'm going to have to read a whole bunch more in this genre.  Rather than rely on my somewhat spotty neural network to record my responses to those books, well, I might just pitch out some of my insights and critiques here.

So I'm apologizing in advance.