A friend of mine was interested in my take on a recent post by Thom Rainer, What If I Could Only Have 25 books in My Minister’s Library? I compiled my list and short descriptions of reasons for each of my selections before I looked at his list, to see how they compared.
Like Mr. Rainer, my list encompasses a range of topics and issues, and reflects my personal preferences. However, his list was what I suspected it would be: 25 books for a scholarly theologian. I guess that is how he interprets being a “minister” – some who emphasizes academic studies, exegetical research, and preaching/teaching. Certainly, there’s a role for a resource list like his. However, there was very little on his list that was directly about praxeology – practical ministry frameworks and methods – just a few titles on evangelism and church. And while his theological studies may “minister” biblical answers to people, it doesn’t seem to me it does much for the apprehension of people’s personal and social questions first, if at all.
I consider myself a ministry practitioner. I’ve been involved primarily with recovery ministries, social enterprise and church start-ups, and advocacy for survivors of spiritual abuse. So, I’m more interested in making sure I listen carefully and “get it” about actual questions, and then search the Bible for concept frameworks and practical applications as answers. My experience is that answers not matched to questions tend not to connect for people, but can pressure them to conform for wrong reasons. Also, I’ve found in my research on toxic systems and spiritual abuse that if you have supposedly sound theology but have a deficient praxeology, you tend not to be a minister who empowers hope, but end up a malignancy waiting to happen. So, I start with questions to explore, not answers to impose. My list intuitively leaned toward cultural systems and their specific underlying worldview paradigms, where Mr. Rainer’s understandably leaned toward systematic theology and books on specialist disciplines.
That said, maybe my strategy for choosing these books is more important than the final selections. In my opinion, robust ministries call for us to be generalists, conversant in multiple domains and disciplines, so we have raw materials from which to synthesize trustworthy ministries. Continue reading