the faith as a way of life project i lead here at the center for faith and culture is in part asking to what extent faith, understood as a thick and substantially theological understanding of Christian faith, orients pastoral leadership and Christian life in the midst of everyday lives.
so as we head into our october 27-29 meeting in washington d.c. to discuss the relationship of faith to politics, i happened to run across two contradictory bits of information.
a barna survey done last may reinforces my sense that actually, pastor's don't read much theology. of pastors who read, the most popular genre are discipleship or spiritual growth (54%) followed by church growth or leadership (50%). only 9% reported reading theology. for good measure, pastor rick warren's book the purpose driven life was mentioned by name more than any other single book, and one of every five senior pastors said it was the most helpful book they'd read in the last three years. (pastors under forty, however, were much less likely to find warren helpful, and instead read books on prayer).
that last factoid points towards the generational shift from the boomers to the gen-xers and younger church leaders who, i think, are going to have a very different relationship to theology. marshall shelly, from leadership magazine, has this to say about interviews at the *catalyst* conference 2005 just held for 'generation next leaders' . he had this to say:
Theology Is Back
Leadership editor Marshall Shelley offers this report on his conversations with young leaders at Catalyst.
“It’s funny. It’s like theology is back,” said Rusty, who is planting a Methodist church near Auburn University in Alabama. The church is meeting in a skate park, mirror ball on the ceiling and all.
Rusty put his finger on a reality that many at the 2005 Catalyst Conference identified with. Theology and a skate park don’t seem like a matched set, but theology is increasingly a subject of great interest to younger leaders, in fact, it’s of great interest to younger people in general.
more from Shelly here. anyway, our center is working together with emergent and tony jones to host a theological conversation with my colleague, miroslav volf. the conversation, to be a conversation, was capped at 115 attendees and it filled up only a few hours after registration opened on the emergent website. wow. and the waiting list is double that. the deal? people pay their own way to new haven, read two long hard books on theology, and talk about them for two days with the author and each other.
so some pastors are not only reading theology, they are excited for the conversation, the learning, the depth. this is not only encouraging, but says that emergent is about more than protestant principle--they are after catholic substance, the substance of faith, and the means to make it real in faith as a way of life. hey, i like the sound of that phrase.
anon, and +peace