Loving the Church but Hating the Book

Bill Kinnon restores the art of writing a review on a book that you dont like. This has been a big issue for me. I am often sent rubbish books and I would rather not say anything at all than put up yet another negative review and have everyone mad at me. But maybe if some of us were more honest with their first book, rather than trying to be nice and encouraging, then perhaps the situation that Bill describes could have been avoided.

The book in question is Why We Love The Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck and Bill’s review is the place to start.

Related: In a recent comment on the unsustainability of the Western traditional church model, I suggested that anyone that gets paid for 20 hours a week to sit in an office preparing a 30 minute sermon, like Kevin DeYoung, will most likely NOT be emergent and will love the church, or at least that kind of church. Sorry if that was out of line but Bill’s review inspired me towards being a little more honest. I love the church also, but I cant condone a continued spending spree that will bankrupt us all.

Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name “Precious” :-)

12 Comments

  • I understand someone who puts 20 hours a week into creating art, or baking organic artisan bread – so I have no problems with someone spending 20 hours a week preparing to teach/preach. The bigger problem is when we think only this is ministry. The preaching pastor can play a part – but it had better be only part of what’s going on in that body of believers.

  • Paying a pastor for 20 hours a week to prepare a sermon has to be more responsible than paying a blogger for 60 hours a week to travel around the world giving his two bits about everything ’emergent.’ 🙂

  • Peter – I responded to this comment on the Jesus Freaks post as that’s where Andrew made the initial comment re: cushy pastor gigs. I will say though that If I had any money, I would give some to Andrew in a heartbeat. His on the ground reporting is invaluable to my work – and he’s encouraged me to do likewise so I am commenting on those walking the walk instead of focusing on those who know how package their ministry in a nice publishing package. We need a few of us to go out and actually see if the ministry lives up to the hype AND to highlight where there are glimpses of God operating below the surface that aren’t being reported.
    Andrew – a few reflections re: reviewing rubbish that I try to follow:
    1. How popular is the bad book? If the book is getting limited or no buzz, then even negative PR can help propel sales. Here silence might be the best move.
    2. IF I know the person as a personal friend and I feel the book is truly lousy, I don’t review it. The FEW times I gave in to their begging, it bit me in the hiney. I have yet to be asked to endorse rubbish fortunately.
    3. Often I love an author’s first book but feel their books are put out more to fill some publishing quota. This is especially true for practioners – the first book is about their ministry which can really rock but then they go on the author/touring bandwagon so they end up spending more time in hotel rooms and in front of crowds than with their community. Once you’re on that holy hamster wheel then the focus is on producing a show rather than putting one’s principles into actual practice). In those cases I might encourage people to buy the first book citing any reviews or plugs I did for the book when it first came out.
    I try to ignore the stuff that came out since hoping folks will realize that my silence means I don’t like them. But if this author’s traveling show and their products start getting a lot of buzz, then I might say how I sense the author lost their original voice that really excited me to the work and perhaps they might want to stop touring and spend time with the community that helped form their voice. Odds are the author won’t hear me cause they’re too busy playing the faith fame game. But maybe some readers might take notice here and the lack of sales might be the only thing that will get that author off the circuit and into their church. This becomes REALLY tricky if you know the author personally.

  • Now its official – I would love you to read/review my book. Nothing like putting your work in the hands of someone who is committed to giving it an honest go – one way or the other. Galleys won’t be ready until October, but I could email…

  • My previous comment was made with a measure of jest. I highly respect your work and think that it is worth every penny that your donors contribute. I believe you are contributing greatly to the cause of Christ’s kingdom. However, it seems somewhat sanctimonious to throw stones at the value of diligent, time-consuming preparation for the proclamation of God’s Word. I wonder if you would make the same assessment of the sixteen century Genevan preacher’s sermon prep.

  • hi peter. no offence taken. we all have a limited budget here on the mission field and watch our pennies carefully, especially when they come from someone else. i probably would not suggest paying a blogger to travel the globe for a few posts but i would support a missionary traveling the world to advance God’s missional purpose through hands-on ministry and then i would hope he or she would put up a few blog posts to add some transparency to their ministry, as well as giving milage to the stories and research and observations that are probably quite valuable.
    Sanctimonious? You might be right and I will think on it.
    But from my perspective, if I had to raise money for a pastor to spend 20 hours a week preparing a 30 minute sermon for a single congregation, I would have to compromise my standard and jeapordize my reputation as someone who gives wise and practical direction for the dispersing of mission funds.
    In fact, we dont have funds for church buildings OR pastoral salaries, let alone the luxury of a 20 hour prep time for a message.
    But maybe I am too much of a pragmatist? What do you think?

  • Andrew, how much time would you say is fair for someone to spend in preparing to preach?
    I’m not sure I spend 20 hours – probably closer to 10-12 – but I think this discussion could either be seen as implying that preaching is a waste of time, or that some pastors need to get out of their studies a bit more. I agree very much with the second sentiment.

  • Darryl – speaking as a writer, I tend to take the Jack Kerouac approach where my life and my writing intertwine. Sometimes like now I have to hole myself up and write because I am on some major deadlines. But this is because I spent a lot of time engaged in on the ground research. I’d rather hear a slightly imperfect sermon from someone’s heart that shows me they’ve been busy walking the walk as that gives me hope to do likewise than watching yet another pastor do his circus act in the hopes I’ll be spiritually entertained.
    There are those author/speakers and pastors whose sole focus is on delivering a performance that will wow the masses. Often they repeat their stories or they pick up some story the learned second hand because they don’t step down from their pedestal long enough to really interact with people. Now, some folks love hearing say Joel Osteen repeat his favorite hits (saw him in 2007 and 2009 and the show was almost identical) – so for some this model of church works though as Andrew points out, it’s not sustainable for the vast majority of Christendom.

  • “I’d rather hear a slightly imperfect sermon from someone’s heart that shows me they’ve been busy walking the walk as that gives me hope to do likewise than watching yet another pastor do his circus act in the hopes I’ll be spiritually entertained.”
    Becky: I hear you.
    The problem is I’ve encountered too many pastors who haven’t spent enough time meditating on the text and who really should have spent more time being shaped by it – which can take place in community and outside the study, as well as in it.

  • Darryl – I hear you. An amazing soul I respect commented how many of the “emergent” types she meets have a very limited inner prayer life – it’s as though at times contemplation and Christianity have become dirty words. These types tend to produce the flashy type showy sermons I referenced above. When my writing starts to suffer (and I become uber cranky) it’s because my prayer life is in the toilet once again.

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